Crime

Police: Murder suspect acted 'erratically' after girlfriend's shooting

TIM CHITWOOD

tchitwood@ledger-enquirer.com

 

Mike Haskey mhaskey@ledger-enquirer.com Vashon Walker,seated, is being represented by defense attorney William Kendrick. 08/19/15
Mike Haskey mhaskey@ledger-enquirer.com Vashon Walker,seated, is being represented by defense attorney William Kendrick. 08/19/15 mhaskey@ledger-enquirer.com

Vashon Londel Walker seemed hysterical the night of June 17, 2014, when he called police to the 4304 Forrest Road home he shared with girlfriend Jessica Osborne, who lay dead inside, police testified Wednesday in a pretrial hearing.

Charged with murder in Osborne’s fatal shooting, Walker’s trial is set for Oct. 5. Wednesday’s hearing was to decide what evidence will be admissible.

Investigators were called to the witness stand to recount what Walker told them when they responded to his 911 call regarding a shooting.

Officers said Walker met them on the front porch, where he was crying and behaving erratically. He sat down and began to bang his head and hands against the porch, apparently out of “frustration,” said Officer Alexander Koller.

Koller said Walker kept asking, “Is she OK?” Sgt. Daniel Lyon testified Walker also repeated “They shot her! They shot her!”

Lyon said that after he found Osborne shot in the head on the floor inside, he had to restrain Walker to keep him from going back in. Walker was not a suspect in Osborne’s death then, as the officers had no idea what had happened, Lyon said.

Walker told them he and Osborne had confronted an intruder who fired the fatal shot. The assailant had demanded Walker’s “dope,” and Walker had told the gunman he had none, he told police.

Lyon said Walker told him that after the shooting, the gunman got into a truck and sped down Reese Road, with Walker chasing after it, but Walker could not say which side of the truck the assailant got into, what color the truck was, or which direction it went.

Lyon said the officers decided to get Walker away from the scene to calm him down. Koller was assigned to take Walker to police headquarters, and handcuffed him for the ride, a safety precaution.

Meanwhile Osborne, 28, the mother of three girls, was pronounced dead at 7:40 p.m.

At the Public Safety Center downtown, police Lt. Greg Touchberry told Koller to remove Walker’s handcuffs. Touchberry then talked to Walker, who at that time still was considered a witness. “He didn’t give me any trouble,” Touchberry said.

No longer restrained, Walker was free to move around, and twice walked out of the interview room while Touchberry was away, the lieutenant said. At one point Koller escorted Walker to a restroom, where he was allowed to wash his hands, though they had not been tested for gunshot residue.

Later Walker told Touchberry he wanted to go to the hospital to check on Osborne, but by then Touchberry had learned Walker was wanted on charges unrelated to Osborne’s death, so Touchberry handcuffed Walker and told him he was under arrest.

Osborne’s homicide was assigned to Detective David Stokes, who around 12:30 a.m. read Walker his Miranda rights and had him sign a form stating he understood them. Stokes said Walker’s interview went on for at least four hours after that.

At no time did Walker invoke his right to remain silent or seek an attorney, Stokes said.

Prosecutor Katie Hartford told Judge Frank Jordan Jr. that at one point in the interview Stokes asked whether Walker wanted to continue, and the suspect raised his voice and said, “Yeah. Yeah. I want to talk to y’all.”

Defense attorney William Kendrick questioned whether Walker would have known he was not in police custody, after having been handcuffed for the ride downtown. Though the officers’ testimony did not go into the details of what Walker told them, Kendrick clarified that at no point in the questioning did Walker admit any wrongdoing, and maintained someone else shot Osborne.

Jordan decided the statements Walker made were admissible as evidence.

A more contentious matter was whether a jury should hear about Walker’s record of domestic violence. Hartford said his “prior bad acts” showed he had a pattern of resorting to violence during domestic disputes.

She cited six instances in which Walker was alleged to have assaulted a girlfriend:

• He was accused of firing a gun twice at a girlfriend, choking and punching her on Sept. 13, 2013.

• He allegedly put her in a headlock and choked her until she almost passed out on May 20, 2013, then threatened to kill her if she didn’t drop the simple battery charge. Police decided they lacked probable cause to pursue the case.

• He was accused of beating and biting her and dragging her back by her hair when she tried to get away from him on July 23, 2012.

• He punched her in the face several times on May 28, 2012, and pleaded guilty to battery in that incident.

• He was accused of grabbing a pregnant girlfriend by the neck and punching her in the forehead on June 9, 2012.

Kendrick objected that some of the accusations were not valid because the charges were dismissed, and in the July 23, 2012 case, the complainant pleaded guilty to falsely reporting a crime. He said in two cases, the charges were dismissed in Columbus Recorder’s Court, and in a third authorities declined to prosecute.

Hartford countered that neither convictions nor even formal charges are required to offer prior bad acts as evidence. Police reports and testimony will suffice, she said, adding that the incidents would show Walker’s pattern of escalating violence and witness intimidation.

Jordan did not immediately rule on that matter, nor on another witness statement Kendrick challenged.

That was from Antonio Pace, an employee of a Boys and Girls Club where Osborne took her daughters. He told investigators Osborne recounted to him a trip to Mississippi she and Walker made on May 29, 2014.

Pace said Osborne told him that on the way home, Walker pulled over, put a gun to her head and told her he could kill her and just leave her on the side of the road.

Kendrick called Walker’s mother Tawaner Walker to the stand to dispute this account, but she could testify only that the couple seemed happy when they got back to her house in Columbus. She also testified the trip was in June, not in May.

When Kendrick asked if she might have gotten the month wrong, she said, “I want to say June.”

Walker, who was 23 when charged with Osborne’s homicide, faces charges of malice or intentional murder, felony murder for allegedly killing Osborne while committing the felony of aggravated assault, aggravated assault and being a convicted felon with a firearm.

He was convicted of burglary on Jan. 1, 2009. He also served time for two counts of theft by receiving stolen property related to auto thefts.

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