Testimony Thursday in the murder trial of Javon Rice and Malcolm White revealed how Bennie “Frank” Pulley dealt drugs from his home at 34 Lanier Drive in Columbus.
Rice and White are alleged to have bought marijuana from Pulley on Jan. 27, 2013, before returning to Pulley’s home and killing him during a robbery.
Pulley’s fiancé Selena Ross fought back tears as she described her late boyfriend’s routine. She said he typically spent his time in the front room of his home watching sports on ESPN as customers came and went. He would see no one before 9:30 a.m., and eventually required that clients call him before they came over, as he feared being robbed.
He kept documents recording customers’ names, dealt marijuana from a Ziplock bag he kept in the front living room, and had a gun stuffed behind the cushion of a loveseat there for protection.
His closest friends like him were ex-military men he called his “brothers,” she said, and they often came over to watch games with him.
Another witness, police Detective Murry Gunderson, said his investigation showed Pulley kept an orderly house. “He was a military man,” Gunderson said, so he was meticulous in ensuring that “everything had its place.”
So when police about 4:50 p.m. that Sunday found him face down in his front room with five bullet wounds from a .380-caliber handgun, they noted no signs of disarray in the room except cushions on the loveseat were moved as if someone searched through them, Gunderson said.
Earlier testimony showed Pulley, 33, died with a .40-caliber pistol beside his right hand. It had not been fired. At his left side lay a live round apparently ejected from the weapon.
Gunderson said Pulley’s TV still played a Miami Heat game as police examined the crime scene.
Jurors Thursday also heard from two more of the children who were playing basketball in the street the day Pulley died. A girl, now 16, recalled seeing two angry men leave Pulley’s home earlier that day, then seeing them return about two hours later.
She was one of two girls who went to check on Pulley after hearing gunshots. They opened his front door, and saw him lying on the floor in pooling blood, gasping for breath. “I asked him if he was OK and if he could talk, and he couldn’t,” she said.
Asked about discrepancies in how she first described the two assailants as compared to how she recounted her experience later, she said stress may have been the reason: “That night I was shocked and terrified,” she said.
Her brother, 15, said Pulley was known not only as “Frank” but as “Playboy,” and helped him learn new techniques for weight-lifting. Like his sister, he recalled seeing Pulley right after the neighborhood children playing basketball heard gunshots.
“I seen him bleeding all over the place,” he said. “He was trying to murmur something but he couldn’t get it out. I didn’t know how to react. I didn’t know what to do.”
Like other witnesses, he described one of the men visiting Pulley’s home as tall and skinny, with dreadlocks or twists in his hair that were dyed orange or gold at their tips.
Authorities said that description matches Rice.
The boy also said the second man was shorter, wore a crucifix around his neck and had three “slits” or tight, vertical lines shaved through one eyebrow. Authorities claim that matched White, and prosecutors showed the jury a crucifix police confiscated from him.
Unlike other witnesses, the teen recalled seeing neither man fleeing Pulley’s home throw away a gun, nor leave with a black bag, which another child said she recognized as the kit bag in which Pulley kept his cigarettes, cell phone and marijuana.
Defense attorney Stacey Jackson, who represents Rice, emphasized that police found no gun linked to the homicide, and had no fingerprints or DNA evidence placing either suspect in Pulley’s home. He also had witnesses acknowledge that dreadlocks and twists are not uncommon hairstyles among black youth.
Besides murder, Rice and White, both 20, are charged with armed robbery and using a firearm to commit a crime.