The trial for two men charged with murdering a Columbus man in 2012 began Monday in Delaware County Common Pleas Court.
During opening arguments in the case of Reginald Timothy Conley, 27, of Lucasville and Jermaine Darnell Kelly, 31, of Columbus, First Assistant Prosecutor Kyle Rohrer said that on Nov. 9, 2012, Dontee Gervins, 29, of Columbus, was murdered by Conley and Kelly to prevent him from implicating Conley in a separate double homicide.
Rohrer said that in October 2012, Gervins, Conley and two others went to a home on Gulch Street in Columbus to commit robbery but ended up killing two people. Rohrer said Gervins and Conley’s two accomplices were quickly arrested and either could not or would not identify Conley as being involved.
“When he was shot, Dontee was the only person who could identify Conley,” Rohrer told the jury.
Rohrer said that on Nov. 9 Conley and Kelly took Gervins to Red Bank Road in Harlem Township and shot him in the back.
A Harlem Township homeowner testified Monday afternoon and told the jury that around 5:30 p.m. she heard a banging on her door and said the person on the other side was yelling that they had been shot. The resident testified that she called 9-1-1 and they told her not to open the door and said medics and law enforcement had been dispatched.
The woman also testified that she could hear the person on the other side of the door, later identified as Gervins, talking to someone on the phone and telling them that he “wouldn’t tell anybody.”
Rohrer said that investigators analyzed cell phones belonging to Conley, Kelly and Gervins and said the towers place them in Delaware County together that afternoon.
“Three phones went up, two came down,” Rohrer told the jury.
Rohrer added that one of Conley’s accomplices in the Gulch Street shooting spoke to Kelly that evening from the Franklin County Jail. Rohrer said Kelly told the man that he was with Conley and said he and Conley were hunting and had “got us a little deer.”
Conley’s defense attorney, Marcus Ross, said the prosecution’s case is based entirely on speculation and circumstantial evidence.
“All we ask you to do is keep an open mind,” Ross said to the jury. “The government’s case is based on pure speculation. No physical evidence links Conley or Kelly to the incident.”
Ross pointed out that no witnesses can place Conley and Kelly in Delaware County at the time.
“The only verdict based on reason and common sense is ‘not guilty,’” Ross told the jury.
Jury selection lasted until 1 p.m. Monday and was followed by opening arguments, the testimony of Harlem Township resident, the first Delaware County Sheriff’s deputy on scene and one of the medics who gave Gervins medical treatment.
The deputy testified that when she arrived on scene, Gervins was too weak to even tell her his name.
Gervins died in a hospital nine days later, prosecutors said.
The trial is set to resume Tuesday at 8:30 a.m.
Conley and Kelly were indicted by a Delaware County grand jury on July 22, 2016, and were in the Delaware County Jail Monday.
Conley is charged with two counts of murder; one charge of intimidation of witness in a criminal case, a third-degree felony; and one charge of having weapons while under disability, also a third-degree felony.
Kelly is charged with two counts of murder; one charge of intimidation of witness in a criminal case, a third-degree felony; and two counts of having weapons while under disability, also third-degree felonies.
Both murder charges carry firearm specifications and gang specifications, both of which could add years to any potential prison term. Krueger told the defendants that the murder charges carry between 15 years and life in prison.
At the arraignment, Rohrer said Conley is in prison on an unrelated burglary conviction and is projected to be released in March 2017.
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.