Marcus Dermer’s girlfriend saved his future.
Had he not spent the evening with her and her family on Jan. 3, 2016, he might have gone along with Jervarceay Tapley’s plan to “do a lick” or commit a crime on Bentley Drive, just like his friends Rufus Burks and Raheam Gibson.
Had he gone with them, Dermer also would be facing life in prison for the brutal slayings of Gloria Short, 54; her son Caleb Short, 17; and granddaughter Gianna Lindsey, 10.
Dermer testified Wednesday in Burks’ murder trial, a day after Gibson took the stand to talk about joining Tapley and Burks in their raid on the Shorts’ 3057 Bentley Drive home, where they stole cash, clothes, a PlayStation 4 game machine and some video games.
The next day, the three victims were found bludgeoned with a 20-pound dumbbell. Gloria Short and Gianna also were stabbed, investigators said.
Gibson has agreed to plead guilty in the case. Tapley pleaded guilty last week.
Dermer testified that Tapley recruited him to join in the scheme, telling him to meet them about 6 p.m. at Arbor Pointe off Benning Drive. After they discussed the plan, Dermer had Burks give him a moped ride to his girlfriend’s home, which is in Arbor Pointe, he said.
But Dermer didn’t stay there to meet the conspirators. He left, accompanying his girlfriend and her mother as they ran errands and went out to eat pizza. Dermer was in the car with them when Burks called his cellphone to ask why he wasn’t at the rendezvous.
Dermer told Burks he wasn’t going to join them.
Around 10 p.m., Gibson called him, and put him on speaker phone, Dermer testified. He heard all three talking, so he knew they were together. They told him they were on the east side of town.
Dermer said his mother had given him a 10 p.m. curfew, so he had to go home to check in with her before he could return to his girlfriend’s. He went back to Arbor Pointe about 11 p.m., and stayed until midnight or 1 a.m. before he went home, he said.
Around 1 a.m., Tapley called, and told him to come pick up some things Tapley had for him, Dermer said. He did not go.
When he awoke about 9 a.m. Jan. 4, 2016, he found a trash bag full of stuff left for him outside. In the bag were T-shirts, pants and Nike Air Jordans, he said. He and Burks later photographed themselves wearing some of the clothes and posted the pictures on Facebook the following Jan. 7.
The clothes belonged to Caleb Short, who collected Air Jordans.
About an hour before Dermer found the loot that was left for him, nurse Robert Short Sr. returned to his Bentley Drive home after working the night shift at Northside Hospital, and found his wife, son and granddaughter bound with tape and lying in pools of blood.
Much of his home appeared to have been ransacked, with debris scattered around the bodies.
“Oh my God! Someone killed my family!” he sobbed to a dispatcher on his 911 call at 8:02 a.m.”They’ve been tied up and beaten. Who would do this to my family? Who would do this?”
The answer was Tapley, then 16, whom Robert Short had known since Tapley was a baby. The Shorts had treated him like a cousin, as Tapley lived with Gloria Short’s brother Robert Averett and Averett’s girlfriend, who was Tapley’s grandmother. Tapley had spent summers with the Shorts, accompanying them on fishing trips and vacations to Disney World.
He knew what valuables Caleb owned, and told his cohorts he intended to get the alarm code for the Shorts’ home to facilitate a burglary.
Instead he called Caleb outside when he got to Bentley Drive with Burks and Gibson, and he and Burks bound Caleb with duct tape before taking him into the house, said Gibson, who testified he waited outside until told it was time to leave.
He said he and Burks left in the Shorts’ Volkswagen Beetle, which Burks and Tapley had loaded with Caleb’s clothes. Tapley later took the Shorts’ GMC Envoy and met them in Columbus’ Oakland Park area, where they abandoned both vehicles after removing the stolen goods.
Police serving search warrants later found some of Caleb’s clothes at Tapley’s Calhoun Drive home, and found other evidence at Burks’ home on Edgechester Avenue. Gibson didn’t have anything taken from the Shorts, investigators said.
All of the suspects were young. Burks was only 15, and Gibson was 19.
Dermer was 16 then, attorneys said.
During his testimony Wednesday, Dermer got irritated after he first said he sometimes traded sneakers with Burks, then later said they never exchanged shoes. Curry asked why he contradicted himself, and they went back and forth over whether he had.
Annoyed, Dermer told her he’d recently hit his head in a car accident. “I have a real bad headache, and you are really poking my temper right now,” he said. Curry just smiled.
It was one of the trial’s odder moments. Another happened Tuesday when Government Center workers discovered a wireless device prosecutors were using for their audio-video system somehow was connecting to speakers in a courtroom one floor down, broadcasting snippets of testimony.
On Wednesday afternoon, police Cpl. Sandra Hickey gave testimony outlining how investigators used cell phone records to track the three suspects on their journey from Arbor Pointe to the Shorts’ home in Upatoi.
Gibson said the three started out with him and Burks on Burks’ moped and Tapley on a bicycle. Tapley ditched the dysfunctional bike near the driver’s license bureau on Macon Road, and they afterward took turns on the moped, with two riding ahead before one turned back to get the third.
More testimony regarding their route is expected, as police collected surveillance video of the three passing security cameras along the way.
The trial resumes Thursday morning in Judge Gil McBride’s 11th floor Government Center courtroom.
Now 17, Burks is being tried on 10 counts: three counts of malice or intentional murder; three counts of felony murder for allegedly killing the three victims while committing the felony of aggravated assault; two counts of auto theft; and one count each of kidnapping and first-degree burglary.