Crime

Columbus woman, 83, stabbed repeatedly by man wanting crack money, prosecutor says

Angelo Bernard Short wanted money to buy crack the night he kicked in 83-year-old Peggy Gamble’s door, robbed her of $15 and stabbed her repeatedly with a paring knife, before he bent that blade and switched to a butcher knife, a prosecutor told jurors Monday in Short’s murder trial.

Short left her bleeding on the floor of her 2324 Eighth Street home, off Lawyers Lane south of Buena Vista Road, but later returned to take two of her TVs, which he later traded for drugs, and her beige 1988 Toyota Corolla, Assistant District Attorney George Lipscomb said.

That was on the night of Nov. 27, 2016. For the next three days, witnesses would see Short driving around Columbus in the Toyota, doing drugs and sleeping in vacant houses.

The night Gamble was killed, someone last spoke to her by phone about 10:45 p.m. Around 10 a.m. the next day, relatives unable to reach her went to her home, and called police when she did not come to the door, Lipscomb said.

Officers finding her body noticed two knives missing from the set in her butcher block.

Witnesses later would tell police Short afterward went to Bibb City, where he met some acquaintances from whom he hoped to get crack. They traveled to another home in that same area to do drugs, but those with Short soon became uneasy because of his erratic behavior, Lipscomb said.

When they heard about the homicide and the car police were looking for, they began to suspect Short had killed the woman, the prosecutor said.

About 7:30 a.m. on Nov. 29, 2016, the day after police found Gamble’s body, Short drove to the Piggly Wiggly store at 910 Brown Ave. and took a carton of Newport cigarettes, punching a 43-year-old woman working there in the face when she tried to stop him, Lipscomb said. That incident was recorded on store video.

Later that same day, police found him at a vacant house he’d been occupying, just a few blocks from Gamble’s home. When they moved in to arrest him, he tried to provoke them into shooting him, saying “Shoot me! Shoot me!” and pulling out a crack pipe to light in front of them, before he was stunned with a Taser and handcuffed, Lipscomb said.

Questioning

A series of police interviews followed. At first Short denied nothing police alleged he’d done, the prosecutor said. Then days later he blamed the homicide on another man, Taqwan Pollard, who had accompanied Short as Short drove around in Gamble’s car, Lipscomb said.

Still later, after police allowed him to have dinner with his mother, he confessed, saying “I’m the bad man” and giving this account of what happened, the assistant district attorney said:

Short told officers he and Gamble distantly were related by marriage. When he went to her home and knocked on the door, she asked who was there, and he replied, “It’s Short. I need some money.”

She told him to come back the next day. Angered by her tone, he became enraged, kicked in her door — scattering pieces of it inside — and went in to rob her, though she had only $15, Lipscomb said.

“Just go,” Gamble told him, but he realized she could identify him to police, and decided to kill her, grabbing a knife from her kitchen set and chasing her until she tripped, the prosecutor said.

After his arrest, he told police where to find the knives he had left at a vacant house, Lipscomb said. Lab tests matched blood on the blades to Gamble.

Short is represented by Stephen Craft and Erik Smith of the public defender’s office. Craft told jurors that Pollard was as likely a suspect as Short, because Pollard also was seen driving Gamble’s car, removing items from it and wiping it down afterward. Also Pollard “waffled” when police asked whether he’d been in Gamble’s home, Craft said.

He said Short confessed under pressure as police asked him leading questions, and the prosecution witnesses’ accounts were unreliable, as they were using drugs at the time.

Lipscomb, who’s prosecuting Short with the aid of colleague Alessandro Raimondo, said Short is on trial not only for murder, but for aggravated assault, robbery, burglary, auto theft and obstructing police.

Short was 42 in 2016. Today he’s 45, and faces life in prison if convicted of murder.

His trial resumes Tuesday in Judge Ron Mullins’ Government Center courtroom.

Tim Chitwood is from Seale, Ala., and started as a police beat reporter with the Ledger-Enquirer in 1982. He since has covered Columbus’ serial killings and other homicides, following some from the scene of the crime to trial verdicts and ensuing appeals. He also has been a Ledger-Enquirer humor columnist since 1987. He’s a graduate of Auburn University, and started out working for the weekly Phenix Citizen in Phenix City, Ala.
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