Police said during a Recorder's Court hearing Wednesday that the two teens charged with a January homicide in Benning Hills may have known the victim as a drug dealer.
Javon Dante Rice, 19, and Malcom Deeandre White, 18, faced charges of murder, armed robbery and possession of a firearm during a crime during the 9 a.m. hearing. They were arrested Monday at about 10 p.m. at the Columbus Public Safety Center.
The homicide investigation began after police arrived at 34 Lanier Drive on Jan. 27 to investigate reports of gunshot in the area. They found Benney Pulley Jr., 33, lying on his living room floor with multiple gunshot wounds. His television set was still on, they said.
Police Lt. John McMichael told the Ledger Tuesday that police found signs of struggle while investigating Pulley's home. He also said detectives believe only one gun was used to shoot Pulley five times.
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Det. Murray Gunderson told the court that several unidentified witnesses saw two men matching Rice's and White's description enter Pulley's house before shots were fired. About an hour later, witnesses said they saw two men with the same description flee on foot after shots were heard. Both men were reportedly wearing different clothing.
A man matching Rice's description was said to be "visibly angry" on leaving the scene.
Rice and White were questioned by police on Feb. 1, where they admitted to officers they had been at Pulley's house on Jan. 27. However, they said they came to Pulley's house to buy marijuana. Officers took DNA samples and clothing from both men. The results of the DNA tests have not yet been returned by the GBI.
Police then put together a lineup, where witnesses identified the two by their faces and clothing.
Rice and White are cousins, Gunderson said.
Warrants allowing police to search Rice's Eddy Drive residence were taken out after the interviews.
Police say Rice and White also may have robbed Pulley before allegedly shooting him. Gunderson said missing items from the house include an unknown amount of marijuana, an unknown amount of cash, a cell phone and a gold chain Pulley had received as a gift. None of these items, with exception to the cell phone, have been recovered. Gunderson said police are still unsure whether the phone belongs to one of the suspects or the victim.
Attorney Michael Garner, who represented White during the hearing, questioned police on the identity of the witnesses. He also questioned why results from the DNA tests were not available, even though the evidence had been collected months before. No witnesses were identified during the hearing, and reasons for the missing results were not given.
"At this stage we would love to comment on the evidence, but so far I feel as if none has been presented," Garner said following the hearing. "It's very suspicious when you come to court and officers won't name who the witnesses are. The whole case is just water weak."
Garner also said the men's presence at Pulley's house was not sufficient to charge them with murder, and questioned why police did not charge the men earlier in the year.
"They went there to purchase marijuana. I imagine they and a number of other people were there," Garner said. "That doesn't prove anything. It could have been anyone."
Judge Michael Cielinski set no bond on White and Rice's charges of murder and armed robbery. A $10,000 bond was set for possession of a firearm during a crime.