Murder trial: Police found loaded, unfired pistol by victim's hand

Bennie “Frank” Pulley died with five bullet holes in his body and a loaded .40-caliber pistol on the floor beside his right hand, witnesses testified Wednesday in the murder trial of Javon Rice and Malcolm White.

On the floor by the left side of Pulley’s body was a .40-caliber round that had not been fired, Columbus Police Detective Wayne Fairbairn told the court.

Also on the floor in the front room of Pulley’s 34 Lanier Drive home were casings from a .380-caliber handgun police allege Rice fired at Pulley as he and White robbed him of money and drugs.

Were robbery their motive, they were lax in following through: As prosecutors showed jurors photos from the crime scene, Fairbairn said investigators examining two bedrooms in Pulley’s house found a lockbox containing cash under a bed, and dresser drawers in which officers found more cash, cell phones and bags of marijuana and prescription pills packaged for sale.

Witnesses testified Tuesday that they saw White and Rice flee Pulley’s home with only a black kit bag in which Pulley was known to keep his cell phone, cash and marijuana.

Among those testifying Wednesday was forensic pathologist Steven Atkinson, whose recounting of Pulley’s wounds indicated the victim was not face-to-face with his assailants when the shooting started.

Atkinson said Pulley was shot once in the right side of his chest, twice in the back of his right shoulder, once in his upper back below his neck, and once more on the left side of his back.

Any one of the torso wounds could have been fatal, but combined their damage was extensive, Atkinson said: They fractured ribs and penetrated his lungs, heart, diaphragm, liver, spleen and stomach. The internal bleeding was profuse.

The autopsy results reinforced what neighbors who saw Pulley die earlier testified: That he tried to speak but could not, choking on his own blood.

Police were called to Pulley’s house at 4:45 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 27, 2013. Among the first officers to arrive were Josh Bailey and Teresa Hudgens. Bailey said they got there at 4:50 p.m. and found two women at Pulley’s side as he lay facedown just inside his front door.

“They were hysterical. They kept calling ‘Frank!’” Hudgens testified. When they tried to turn Pulley onto his back, officers restrained the women and took them outside, she said.

Three to four children also were present, but they seemed less distraught than the adults, she said. “They were just more confused than anything else,” said Hudgens: The kids couldn’t understand why anyone would kill the neighbor who often treated them to pizza when they visited his home.

As more police and medics arrived, a crowd of 30-40 people gathered outside, she said.

Authorities allege Rice and White, both 20, visited Pulley earlier that Sunday to buy marijuana, then returned later to rob him. Witnesses said they saw Rice firing into Pulley’s house as White held the door open for him. Three children who were playing basketball outside Pulley’s home identified the suspects as the men they saw entering and leaving the house.

White and Rice face charges of murder, armed robbery and using a firearm to commit a crime.