A Columbus jury today found Oscar Senior guilty of murder in the April 13, 2012, fatal shooting of Charles Willis III , a case in which investigators could find no motive.
Superior Court Judge Maureen Gottfried sentenced Senior to life without parole on his murder charge with 20 years to serve concurrently for aggravated assault. He was sentenced to an additional five years for using a firearm to commit a crime.
Witnesses testified Willis, 31, was sitting in his car at Lawyers Lane and Seventh Street around 5 p.m. when he saw Senior walking by and called out to him. The encounter was not confrontational, they said, recalling that Willis shouted greetings such as “Hey, what’s up, Oscar?” and “Hey, it’s Charles.” Senior’s girlfriend, who witnessed the shooting, said Willis also added, “Oh, so that’s how it’s going to be with your homeboy Charles,” when Senior did not respond.
Three witnesses said Senior, who had been walking with his girlfriend and her small child, pulled a handgun from his pants and emptied it into the car, the fatal shot hitting Willis in the head. A passenger in the vehicle, Douglas Body, ducked out and took cover as Senior fled, police said.
Willis fell dead beside his car. Senior for nearly six months remained on the run from police, who finally arrested him off Pecan Street on Sept. 27, 2012.
In his closing argument this morning, Senior Assistant District Attorney Don Kelly told the jury he could not fathom a motive for the assault: “Why did Oscar Senior shot Charles Willis? I don’t know.”
Willis was unarmed and presented no danger, Kelly said: “There was no threat. There was no weapon. There was nothing. There is no evidence of self-defense.”
Senior’s defense attorney was Vicki Novak of the public defender’s office, who argued witnesses said Senior had a revolver, and evidence showed it was either a .38-caliber or a .357 Magnum. A revolver that size would have held only five to six bullets, yet bullet holes at the crime scene indicated seven or eight shots were fired, Novak said.
“I do believe there’s evidence of another shooter,” she said, later adding, “All you have to do is count.”
Police said they never found the handgun used in the slaying.
Novak also argued Senior had reason to fear for his safety because two weeks earlier, someone had fired 13 shots at the home he shared with his girlfriend and child.
Kelly dismissed the idea of a “second shooter,” reminding jurors three witnesses, including Senior’s girlfriend, said they saw him shoot Willis. To argue otherwise is “pure speculation,” he said. “There’s no evidence to support it.”
Kelly noted also that for months after the shooting, Senior apparently was “living on the street” to avoid capture, which would not be the conduct of an innocent man or one whose actions were justified.