So much blood and human tissue was splattered inside the Gold & Silver Trading Center that at first police weren’t sure store manager Steve Toms was the only one who got shot.
That’s how police Sgt. David Jury, a crime-scene technician, described the scene on Nov. 16, 2011, after shop owner Bob Upchurch found Toms’ body.
Police found blood spattered on store counters, on a filing cabinet, and on a door leading to the jewelry store’s safe room, where an open safe held two cardboard boxes still filled with cash, up to $250,000.
On the floor behind the counter lay Toms, shot six times by what turned out to be a .45-caliber handgun, though police never recovered the weapon used. On the floor by Toms’ left foot was a snub-nosed revolver, fully loaded and cocked, ready to fire, but the trigger had not been pulled, the sergeant said.
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A second gun was in a cabinet under the cash register, the empty drawer from which was out on a glass countertop, Jury testified Monday in the ongoing murder trial of Michael Jerome “Big Smoove” Johnson, who’s accused of killing Toms during a robbery on the evening of Nov. 15, 2011.
Among the first to arrive at the shop the next morning was Edward Love. Love, who worked odd jobs for Toms and Upchurch, was to drive Upchurch to Illinois for a hunting trip that day.
Love said he was outside the store about 8:20 a.m., loading luggage into Upchurch’s car, when Upchurch called him in. Walking into the store, Love noticed necklaces hanging out of a case.
“I turned the next corner and I saw Steve’s feet. There was a pistol by his feet,” he said.
While Upchurch called 911, Love checked on Toms: “He was cold, his arm was still and he had been there awhile,” Love said.
Detectives believe Toms was killed sometime after 5:31 p.m. the day before his body was found. He last texted his daughter at 5:31 p.m., and the store typically closed at 6 on weekdays.
Among the witnesses in Johnson’s trial Monday was Thomas Haynes, who has worked at the Gold & Silver Trading Center for about 30 years.
Haynes said Toms had a routine from which he rarely deviated: About 5:30 p.m., Toms would start compiling the day’s sales, trades and receipts. It would take about 10 minutes for Toms to record the data on a “tally sheet,” Haynes said.
“About 20 minutes ‘til, he would start on the east end of the store clearing the cases,” Haynes said. “It was a process he had done enough times, he was quick at it. It was everything the same way, every day. ... The only time he would have a variation is if he had a late customer.”
Haynes succeeded Toms as store manager. Prosecutor Jennifer Cooley asked him about the relationship between Toms and Upchurch: Had the two any hard feelings toward each other?
Haynes compared them to characters in “The Odd Couple” comedy: “They were more like Oscar and Felix — a grouchy pair of old men who didn’t fight with each other.”
The evening police believe Toms was killed, he did not show up at Duffy’s, a bar he owned two or three miles from the jewelry store. Toms usually went there about 6:30 or 6:45 p.m.
Zoilo Reyes, the bar’s night manager, said he was not alarmed when Toms didn’t come by, because Toms had been ill, and Reyes already had agreed to run the business that night. Reyes said Toms had called about 10 a.m. on the 15th and said he’d call back, but never did. Friends at the bar who tried to contact Toms that night couldn’t reach him, Reyes said. Reyes assumed Toms went home, took some medication and went to sleep. The shell casings officers found on the jewelry store floor and bullets Jury dug out of the shop’s walls went to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation crime lab.
GBI firearms expert Catherine Jordan testified Monday that the bullets and casings all came from the same gun, but none of the guns police gave her to test matched that evidence.
Johnson’s trial resumes at 10 a.m. today in Judge William Rumer’s Government Center courtroom.
He is the only defendant charged in Toms’ slaying. He and codefendant Dimitrius Morris “Slim Deezy” Gordon together are on trial in armed robberies of the 4227 Victory Drive Diamond Exchange on May 5, 2012, and the 5750 Milgen Road Winn-Dixie on April 11, 2012.