Opening arguments are expected Tuesday in the murder case against Rodger Scales, accused of firing a fatal shotgun blast through a door as he and four accomplices targeted the wrong apartment for a robbery on Nov. 9, 2010.
Authorities said the five had planned to rob two women to whom one of the men had just sold drugs. Instead they tried to force their way into the 475 Old Buena Vista Road apartment occupied by Kelley Leggett, who closed and locked his front door when he saw their guns, investigators said.
Through the door Scales fired a “blast that literally blew his head off,” prosecutor LaRae Moore said of Leggett, who before the assault had been watching movies with his girlfriend and brother. They saw him die as they took cover on the floor.
Attorneys spent the day Monday selecting jurors, impaneling three men and 11 women before court adjourned shortly after 5 p.m. Court officials did not reveal which of the 14 are the two alternate jurors.
The five defendants include two brothers, Cleveland Gary Jr., 26, and Tevin Eugene Gary, 20, who have pleaded guilty to reduced charges in exchange for their testimony. They will be sentenced after the other defendants are tried. Scales’ trial is the first. Defendants Jarvis Alexander and Daveka Wade will be tried later.
Cleveland Gary pleaded guilty to manslaughter and two counts of aggravated assault. Moore recommended he be sentenced to serve 30 years in prison — 20 for manslaughter and then 10 years concurrent on each assault count.
Tevin Gary pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit armed robbery and theft by receiving stolen property, for providing the shotgun used in the slaying. The gun had been stolen a month earlier in Phenix City, Moore said.
Before McBride accepted their pleas in early June, Moore gave this narrative of how the crime and arrests played out: She said Wade had sold drugs to women who lived in the same apartment building as the Leggetts, and he suggested the crew conduct a robbery to get money and to get the drugs back.
About 7:30 p.m. they arrived at a nearby car wash and parked two cars in its wash bays. One vehicle was primer gray and the other partly primer gray but two toned. One was an Oldsmobile Cutlass and the other a Chevy Malibu, both 1980s models, Moore said.
She said witnesses fled when they saw men get out of those cars dressed in black and carrying guns.
Instead of going to the women’s apartment, the men went to Apartment 7, where the Leggetts lived.
Kelley Leggett had moved to Columbus about a year earlier. His brother Theodore had been here only a few days. With them was Kelley Leggett’s girlfriend, Angela Crawford.
They were celebrating because Theodore Leggett thought he’d just found a job. They were to watch two movies together, “The Time Traveler’s Wife” and “A Thousand Ways to Die,” Moore said.
Then came a knock at the door. Kelley Leggett got up to see who it was. When he opened the door, he saw someone with a gun. He told his companions to get down on the floor, and tried to force the door closed. His brother came to help him.
When they got the door locked, Scales fired through it, Moore said.
A second blast wounded Theodore Leggett, and then other would-be robbers opened fire through a side, kitchen window, the shots coming from a Glock 9mm pistol and a .380 handgun. Police tallied eight different shots in all, Moore said.
When the gunfire subsided, the survivors inside could hear their assailants’ voices, Moore said, of the attackers adding, “They never got in, and at some point realized it was the wrong house.” They fled.
The Gary brothers went to a downtown nightclub then located at 1244 Broadway, Moore said.
Witnesses told police about the primer-gray cars they’d seen. About 3 a.m., a patrol officer saw one fitting the description near Buena Vista Road and Eighth Street and tried to stop it. The driver sped away, spurring a chase into downtown. The officer ended the pursuit as the vehicle crossed the 13th Street bridge into Phenix City.
At a shopping center on the bridge’s far side, a Phenix City police officer saw a car that matched the description of the suspect’s vehicle, followed it to the Riverview Apartments, and stopped it there. Inside he found Evelyn Gary, mother of Cleveland and Tevin, and Jarvis Alexander, Moore said.
A second officer arrived, and noticed two men and two women standing by a car nearby that had been backed into a parking space. Checking their identity, he learned they were the two Gary brothers, and the car backed into the space had the same tag number as the car the Columbus police officer had chased.
In that car police found a .380 Cobra handgun; in Evelyn Gary’s car, they found the Glock 9mm, Moore said. A search of the Gary family’s South Dixon Drive home and found four more guns, including the 12-gauge shotgun, Moore said.
Investigators quickly determined the suspects’ raid on Kelley Leggett’s home had been a grievous error, Moore told the court. No one inside knew any of the assailants, and Angela Crawford was clear on that from the beginning, telling detectives: “This has got to be a mistake,” Moore said.