After only 2½ hours’ deliberation, a jury found Sacorey McKelvey guilty of murder for ambushing Corey Owens the afternoon of April 24, 2014, on Adair Avenue near Wynnton Road, fatally shooting the father of two in a long-running feud with Owens’ family.
“Cold-blooded, premeditated murder,” Senior Assistant District Attorney Don Kelly called it in his closing argument, citing evidence McKelvey lay in wait for Owens at the bottom of a hill below Rivers Homes, 1050 Adair Ave., and opened fire when the victim left the apartments and pulled up to a stop sign below.
Besides murder, the jury found McKelvey guilty of aggravated assault and using a gun to commit a felony. Judge Gil McBride set McKelvey’s sentencing for 9 a.m. Sept. 5 in McBride’s Government Center courtroom. Because he has a felony record, he faces life in prison. He is 25 years old now.
His record includes convictions on three counts of making terroristic threats, a sore point in his ongoing dispute with Owens’ family because the three victims all were associated with the family.
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Prosecutors said McKelvey for two days before the shooting had been telling people he was going to kill Owens and Owens’ two brothers, who beat him and took his gun the Tuesday before the Thursday murder.
Prosecutors said McKelvey that Tuesday confronted the brothers at Rivers Homes because he still was angry he’d been convicted of terroristic threats in 2009, and having heard the brothers had been robbed of marijuana, he hoped they would pay him for tips on who was responsible.
Instead they told him to leave, and when he pulled a gun, they beat him up and took it away. He left saying he was going to kill them, authorities said.
Because McKelvey already was feuding with the Owens’ family, his confronting them on their home turf was like “poking a hornets nest,” Kelly told jurors Friday morning.
The family claimed McKelvey started stalking them after that.
At 1:50 p.m. the Thursday after McKelvey’s Tuesday fight with the brothers, Owens left Rivers Homes to go pick up his 2-year-old son and 11-month-old daughter. He was shot in the head when he reached Adair Avenue, at the bottom of the hill the apartments stand on.
“Corey Owens did not know Sacorey McKelvey was waiting at the bottom of that hill,” Kelly told jurors in his closing argument, of McKelvey adding, “He was laying in wait to get revenge…. He waited until he had his chance, and when he had his chance, he killed Corey Owens.”
Owens, 29, died the next day in the hospital, with a bullet in his head.
Kelly and Assistant District Attorney Chris Williams outlined the prosecution’s evidence, including two eyewitnesses who picked McKelvey’s picture from a police photo lineup.
A third witness, Dominic Cobb, told police he was riding through the area with his wife when he saw a gunman matching McKelvey’s description get into a black Pontiac Grand Am, which Cobb and his wife followed east on Wynnton Road, calling 911 to give dispatchers a partial tag number.
Police traced the registration to McKelvey’s sister, and in about 15 minutes police found the car outside a Debby Street home. In a console cupholder, they found a construction company paycheck with McKelvey’s name on it.
Police Sgt. Jason Brown said officers later learned McKelvey was inside the Debby Street home, but he fled out the back when police got there, and he remained on the loose until he was captured the following June 5.
Were McKelvey innocent, despite all the evidence against him, then, “He must be the unluckiest guy in the world,” Williams said.
Defense attorney Susan Henderson argued her client was innocent. She pointed out discrepancies in witnesses’ testimony, including differing descriptions of what the gunman was wearing.
She said those testifying to the earlier altercation between McKelvey and the Owens’ brothers were all associated with the Owens family and prejudiced against McKelvey, whom they hated already.
She disputed whether McKelvey had time to commit the crime, as that day he’d picked up his paycheck at a company on Gateway Road in east Columbus, and didn’t leave that location until around 1:30 p.m. That left him only 20 minutes to get to Adair Avenue before Owens’ shooting.
Some witnesses said the gunman they saw waited 10 or 15 minutes for Owens to come down the drive from Rivers Homes, leaving even less time for McKelvey to have made it there from Gateway Road, she said.
The 911 recording from Cobb’s following the black Pontiac with his wife didn’t sound like a chase, Henderson said. The call came from Cobb’s wife, who did not testify. On the recording, she didn’t sound excited, like she was in hot pursuit of a fleeing killer, the attorney said.
Henderson said it’s more likely the call was staged, and Cobb got the Pontiac’s partial license plate from the Owens family, who would have seen it two days earlier.
Prosecutors produced no murder weapon, no fingerprints and no DNA evidence, Henderson noted, adding, “I submit to you that this case has not been proven.”
Williams countered that Henderson’s explanation amounted to a “grand conspiracy” against McKelvey, and it would have had to involve people who didn’t even know him. “That’s just absolutely ridiculous,” the prosecutor said.
Jurors began their deliberations about 1:40 p.m. and announced they had a verdict at 4 p.m.
Henderson said McKelvey will appeal, but will have another attorney for that. “He has many grounds for appeal,” she said, adding that she likely will file a motion seeking a new trial before another attorney takes the case.
“We fought a good battle,” she said of the trial.
Said Williams, the lead prosecutor: “We’re just pleased that justice was done for Corey Owens, and Mr. McKelvey was held accountable for what he did.”