‘A terrible way to die’: Columbus jury reaches verdict in fatal stabbing of 83-year-old

A Columbus jury deliberated only an hour and 20 minutes Friday evening before finding Angelo Bernard Short guilty in the 2016 fatal stabbing of 83-year-old Peggy Gamble.

Jurors also found Short guilty of aggravated assault, robbery, burglary, auto theft and obstructing police.

The jury began its deliberations around 4:30 p.m., and announced its verdict about 5:50 p.m.

Short was 42 years old when Gamble was killed Nov. 27, 2016. Today he’s 45, and facing a maximum sentence of life without parole.

Judge Ron Mullins said he will schedule Short’s sentencing later.

Closing arguments

Short killed Gamble not only because he feared she’d report his taking $15 from her to buy crack, but because he hated her side of his family, prosecutor George Lipscomb told jurors in his closing argument.

Short was distantly related to Gamble because his father Eddie Short had married Gamble’s daughter Miriam. Before he stabbed Gamble 14 times with two knives the night of Nov. 27, 2016, he had visited his father in a Veterans Administration hospital, and he did not feel his father was being treated well, said Assistant District Attorney George Lipscomb.

Short, who had just been released from prison in Alabama, also wanted money, not just to buy more crack, but to pay off a drug dealer he owed, Lipscomb said, and he was angry that Miriam had cut off his access to his father’s finances.

This fury and desperation is what drove him to go to Gamble’s home on Eighth Street to ask her to give him some cash, before he kicked her door in, emptied her purse and took the $15 she had, the prosecutor said.

Short knew Gamble lived alone, and he knew she couldn’t fight back, Lipscomb said: “He needs a soft target. He needs money, and he needs it fast.”

That was his first motive, Lipscomb said, adding, “Motive two: He does not like that side of the family.”

So, as Short told police in a Dec. 5, 2016, confession that was recorded on video, he went to Gamble’s house and knocked on her door. When he told her what he wanted, she replied, “Come back tomorrow. It’s too late.”

He kicked in the west side door to her house, and she met him in the kitchen. “What’s the matter?” she asked.

“I told her I needed some money,” Short told detectives. He said he also told her could not get to his father’s money. She told him to take that up with Miriam.

After he emptied her purse for the $15, she told him: “Take it and leave. I won’t tell nobody.”

He replied, “I don’t believe you,” and then pushed her down in a hallway, grabbed a paring knife from a wooden block housing a set of knives in her kitchen, and started stabbing her in the neck.

“I went and I got a knife,” he told officers, “but that itty-bitty knife kept breaking.”

When he bent the blade on the paring knife, he returned to the kitchen and got a butcher knife, and started stabbing her again, leaving blood spattered on nearby walls and pooling under her body.

“What a terrible, terrible way to die,” Lipscomb told jurors, of Short adding, “He’s a monster, and he’s disgusting, and he’s disgraceful.”

Crack binge

Short told police he left Gamble’s home with the money, met a dealer and smoked some crack, and then went back, twice, looking for more valuables, being careful not to get any of Gamble’s blood on him as he stepped over her body.

On his last trip, he took two TVs he traded for drugs, and he took Gamble’s 2015 Toyota Corolla.

For three days, people saw him driving around in Gamble’s car, even after her body was found around 10 the next morning and police told the public they were looking for her Toyota.

Short tried to sell it, but found no buyers. Some of the people he approached had heard about the homicide and the missing car, but they didn’t report him.

Meanwhile Short and some of the crack users he was hanging out with committed other crimes, stealing car batteries from local auto parts stores and selling them for money to buy more of the drug.

About 7:30 a.m. on Nov. 29, 2016, he went to the Piggly Wiggly store at 910 Brown Ave. and demanded a store clerk give him a carton of Newport cigarettes. Though she complied without protest, he punched her hard in the face, flooring her.

The robbery was recorded on store surveillance. It was the one charge Short did not contest during his weeklong trial.

“I don’t have any problem owning up to that — I did that,” he testified Friday after taking the witness stand in his own defense. “I don’t have no excuse for that.”

The defense

But he did have an excuse for his confession: He claimed Detective Stuart Carter led him on, suggesting facts that fit the evidence, and he cooperated.

“I just said what Detective Carter told me to say, sir,” he told Lipscomb on cross-examination.

Defense attorney Stephen Craft told jurors the prosecution’s case was not as solid as Lipscomb portrayed it, and they had reasons to doubt Short was guilty.

For example, he had none of Gamble’s blood on him, not even on his white, high-top sneakers, though he’d been in her house three times.

“Where is the blood on these white tennis shoes?” Craft asked, holding the sneakers up for jurors to see. Later he brandished a photo of the bloody hallway in one hand and held the sneakers in the other, and raising first the photo and then the shoes said, “Blood. No blood: Doubt.”

Police also found none of Shorts’ fingerprints nor any of his DNA at the crime scene, Craft noted.

Lipscomb said the reason Short got no blood on him was simple: He was careful, and he told police so. When investigators suggested he might have Gamble’s blood on him, Short replied the only blood on his clothes would be his, because he cut himself jumping fences the day police chased him down, just hours after he stole cigarettes from the Piggly Wiggly.

Also the crime scene was not as bloody as Craft suggested, Lipscomb added, because Short never hit the arteries in Gamble’s neck.

That may sound hard to believe, but sometimes that’s just how the truth is, he said: “Sometimes truth is just stranger than fiction.”

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.