A witness in the home-invasion trial of Dewayne Vidal Searcy Jr. left a Columbus courtroom sobbing Wednesday after recounting her role in a scheme that left a 24-year-old man brain-damaged from being shot in the head with his own gun.
Jessica Brooke Elliott had just been grilled about her account of what happened sometime after 3 a.m. May 11, 2016, when she allowed two men into a home at Cooper Cove Apartments off Milgen Road.
Elliott said her then-boyfriend Phillip Michael Futrell, who was friends with Searcy, recruited her and a second woman to visit the apartment and distract the resident while the two men sneaked in and stole guns and drugs from a safe in a back bedroom.
Instead, the man living there saw the intruders and charged at them. That’s when Searcy grabbed the man’s .45-caliber semi-automatic pistol off a coffee table and fired three shots, hitting the victim twice in the left arm and once in the back of the head, Elliott said.
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She initially lied to police about what happened, telling investigators two tall white men wearing hoodies and sunglasses committed the crime. Searcy is black, and of slight build.
Both Elliott and the second woman, Ashley Loraine Wright, testified Searcy and Futrell instructed them to tell police that story.
Asked why she lied, Elliott said she feared reprisal: “I wanted the truth all along, but I was scared.”
She said she was scared not only of Searcy, but “the clique that he was hanging out with.”
Hours after the shooting, she broke down during a police interview and corrected her account. Later that same day, she went to work at the Mix Ultra Lounge, a Broadway nightclub, and caught a ride home from work, she said.
Instead of taking her home, the driver stopped at Veterans Parkway and River Road, where she was “jumped,” she said: Multiple people attacked her for talking to the police.
She testified to this as defense attorney Mark Jones pointed to her Muscogee County Jail mugshot and asked why she had marks on her face. Those were signs of her assault, she said. She was not arrested until the next day, when the mugshot was taken.
Wright also testified Wednesday, admitting that in 2016, she was taking “a lot of Xanax,” which the Cooper Cove resident was dealing, along with small amounts of marijuana.
She said Elliott that day bragged to her she was able to “finesse” people to get drugs. Though Wright agreed to accompany Elliott to Cooper Cove, she denied knowing what the others had planned.
“We were supposed to smoke some weed and talk about some things and leave,” she said.
She thought the plan was that she and Elliott would flirt with the victim, and talk him into giving them drugs.
She was near the apartment balcony when she saw two men come in with their faces covered. The taller one was holding a big stick, she said.
She saw a red laser and dove between some furniture. She did not recall hearing any gunshots, but remembered seeing the victim on the floor, propped up on one arm, bleeding.
The victim testified Tuesday that his pistol had a laser sight on it.
Everyone, including the victim, ran out to the parking lot after the shooting. The two men fled in a car belonging to Futrell’s father. Wright, who had driven Elliott to Cooper Cove, got into her car, and so did Elliott.
She said Elliott asked whether she should call the police. She said yes, and then kicked Elliott out of her car, and threw Elliott’s possessions out, too, before she drove away. She could not call police herself because her cell phone battery was dead.
When asked why she also lied to police afterward, she said she was scared, too.
Asked which of her three cohorts scared her, she replied, “I guess all of them.” She earlier had testified, “I didn’t know these people, really.”
Searcy alone is on trial because his codefendants have pleaded guilty to first-degree burglary. Now 24, he is charged with aggravated battery, aggravated assault, first-degree burglary, using a gun to commit a felony and being a convicted felon with a firearm.
Elliott today is 24; Wright is 25; and Futrell is 30. Each of them faces one to 20 years in prison for burglary.
The trial continues Thursday in Judge Gil McBride’s courtroom. The prosecutors are Christopher Williams and Michelle De Los Santos. Besides Jones, Searcy’s being represented by attorney Kevin James.