She ran down Macon Road yelling for help. Her ex-boyfriend gunned her down in the street, police say

Destinee Virgin ran screaming for her life, witnesses said.

She lept from her eastbound Nissan Maxima at the red light on Macon Road at Rigdon Road and ran west through traffic, calling for help, trying at times to open other car doors to escape Markel Ervin, who chased her with a gun, according to dozens of motorists who saw this, police said.

They watched horrified as Ervin caught up to her and gunned her down, firing multiple shots with a 9 mm pistol before he returned to the Nissan and sped away, police Cpl. Robert Nicholas testified Tuesday during Ervin’s preliminary hearing in Columbus Recorder’s Court.

Called to the busy intersection around 7 p.m. Saturday, police found a swarm of witnesses waiting there, eager to say what they saw, Nicholas said. One told detectives she recognized both Virgin and Ervin from school, and directed investigators to Ervin’s Facebook page, on which he used the nickname “Cricket,” the officer testified.

Police quickly assembled a six-photo lineup to show her, and she identified Ervin as the gunman, Nicholas said.

Ervin, meanwhile, left town, fleeing to Harris County, where that night he ditched the car and had a run-in with sheriff’s deputies, fleeing into the woods and prompting a search, the detective said. Authorities caught him there in the morning, and recovered Virgin’s silver 2004 Nissan with its paper “tag applied for” license plate, Nicholas said.

Markel Ervin was booked into the Muscogee County Jail Monday afternoon after being arrested in Harris County Sunday morning. He was formally charged in the murder of Destinee Virgin on Monday. Muscogee County Sheriff's Office

He said footprints in the red clay around the car had a peculiar tread pattern that matched the sneakers Ervin was wearing, and officers searching Ervin found Virgin’s credit card in his pocket.

Harris County charged Ervin with obstructing law enforcement, and held him for Columbus. Harris County sheriff’s investigators did not try to question him, and Ervin refused to make a statement to Columbus detectives, Nicholas said.

Columbus police arrested Ervin at the Harris County Jail at 12:30 p.m. Monday and brought him here, where he was booked into the Muscogee County Jail at 1:37 p.m., according to jail records.

He was charged with murder for Virgin’s fatal shooting Saturday, but he also faces accusations from an April 25 incident in which he allegedly held her against her will, prompting charges of kidnapping and false imprisonment. He was released May 30 on $50,000 bond on those counts, and Moses Bonding Co. surrendered that bond when he was arrested Monday.

The old case

Ervin, 17, had been arrested on those warrants May 15, after police confronted him in an unrelated incident in which officers alleged Ervin and another man randomly were firing a gun on Floyd Road. Court and jail records showed Ervin in that instance was charged with reckless conduct and possessing a handgun while under the age of 18.

Ervin faced the kidnapping and false imprisonment charges in Recorder’s Court on May 24.

According to testimony in that hearing, Virgin, then a 17-year-old Carver High School senior, was told to be home by 9:30 p.m. April 25 when she and Ervin went to a downtown restaurant.

When Virgin did not come home, her mother tried to call her on her cell phone, but got no answer. About 5 a.m., the mother reported her daughter missing, and detectives joined the search.

destinee l-e facebook.jpg
Destinee Virgin, 18, shown here in a Facebook photo, was shot to death Sept. 22, 2018, in midtown Columbus, allegedly by her ex-boyfriend, Markel Ervin, 17, who was arrested and charged with her murder.

When police found and questioned Virgin, she told them Ervin had held her against her will as he shuttled her from place to place, Detective Joseph Jackson testified. Virgin had a black eye and scratches her face, police said.

Virgin’s mother told the court she had warned her daughter about Ervin: “This is not the first time he has hit my child,” she testified, telling Ervin: “You held her against her will and beat up on her.”

To the judge, Virgin’s mother said: “This is a toxic situation.”

Witnesses testified Virgin previously had run away from home to stay with Ervin and his mother.

Both Virgin and Ervin went to Carver High School. Virgin graduated on May 22, said Principal Chris Lindsey, but Ervin dropped out.

Columbus attorney Stacey Jackson represented Ervin both in the kidnapping and the murder case.

After Recorder’s Court Judge Julius Hunter found probable cause Tuesday to send the murder charge to Superior Court, and ordered Ervin held without bond, Jackson said he again may try to get Ervin released on bond, which only a Superior Court judge can set on a murder charge.

Defendants are entitled to a bond if a grand jury does not indict them within 90 days.