03/24/14 — Live from the courtroom - Joyner on trial

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Live from the courtroom - Joyner on trial

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on March 24, 2014 9:55 AM

Follow all the action unfolding in Courtroom No. 1, as the state attempts to convince a Wayne County jury that Leonard Eugene Joyner is guilty of first-degree murder and first-degree kidnapping in connection with the 2012 death of 16-year-old Kennedy McLaurin Jr.

Joyner on trial, Day 4:

9:54 a.m. -- Defendant Leonard Eugene Joyner is in the courtroom and his attorney, Charles Gurley, is talking to Assistant District Attorney Matthew Delbridge.

9:57 a.m. -- Members of the victim's family have taken their seats. They hope that by week's end, they will have justice for 16-year-old Kennedy McLaurin Jr.

10:02 a.m. -- Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Arnold Jones has entered the courtroom.

10:04 a.m. -- Jones has called for the jury. When testimony resumes, Goldsboro Police Department Det. Dwayne Bevell will retake the stand.

10:06 a.m. -- Bevell is back on the stand and testimony continues.

Delbridge is recapping, for the witness, where he was in his testimony when court was adjourned Friday afternoon.

When he was interviewing Joyner, the young man gave him an alibi -- that he was at a tattoo parlor with Josh Carter all day -- Bevell said.

But Carter later told him the alibi was a lie.

Bevell said that Carter also gave him another name -- Jerome Butts.

"He stated it was Jerome's car that was used," Bevell said. "That the interior of the car had been stripped."

Based on that information, the detective located Butts' residence.

Delbridge, after placing an over-sized map next to Bevell, is asking him to point out the "location that you went to."

Bevell said he arrived there, with other lawmen, at approximately 11:52 that morning.

"We converged on the area," he said, adding that there was a helicopter nearby and a CSI team on standby.

Butts, he said, arrived at the residence just before 1 p.m.

Bevell said that officers were scouring the area for "burn pits" and "burial sites."

Butts drove up and was met by the detective walking to his car door.

"I stated, 'It's over. We're done. You need to tell the truth,'" Bevell said.

From there, they went to Deluxe Drive -- the location where the car McLaurin was allegedly shot in had been stripped of its interior.

Butts, he said, also took him to a "dirt path off Carmack Road," and showed them "the first burial site."

Later, he would show them "burial site two" -- the place where McLaurin's remains were ultimately unearthed.

Bevell named, for the jury, the names of all four defendants.

10:18 a.m. -- Cross-examination begins and defense attorney Charles Gurley is approaching the witness. He is asking Bevell to identify, using a long wooden stick, Hickory Hills on a large map.

He asked Bevell how far Bain Street is from Hickory Hills.

"I don't think I have that (information) in my summary," the detective said, adding that it would take about 15 minutes to drive from the courthouse to Hickory Hills.

Gurley asked if when Bevell initially interviewed Diamond Sampson and Antonio King about the incident, they told him anything about a "robbery."

10:22 a.m. -- Bevell is reviewing his file.

10:24 a.m. -- The detective said they did not.

Gurley asked if on Sept. 15, 2012, Bevell became aware of a possible self-defense issue in the case. He said no.

The detective said Curtis Ethridge's mother, never provided him with a statement. Bevell corrected Gurley and said it was Ethridge's grandmother, not his mother, that he spoke with -- but said he did not take a formal statement.

The detective said he did not read Joyner his rights the day he came in for his initial interview.

"I did not place him in handcuffs," Bevell said, adding that the Wayne County Sheriff's Office made that call.

The detective said he took the handcuffs off the young man in the parking lot and that he was not under arrest at the time of the interview.

Bevell confirmed that after the interview, he took Joyner back to the residence he was picked up from -- the home of Josh Carter -- and that he rode off on a bicycle.

The detective said he received many untrue statements from Carter -- that he took the statements at his residence.

Bevell said he video-taped his initial interview with Jerome Butts.

Bevell said he interviewed Kevin Smith Sept. 21, 2012.

Gurley is asking how many statements Butts made.

Bevell said he interviewed him several times Sept. 20 and Sept. 21, 2012.

Gurley asked, "Who produced (Butts') hand-written statement?"

Bevell said he drafted it.

"The third one, where you came up with the statement that you got him to sign, did you tape that one?" Gurley asked.

Bevell said he is unclear as to what "the third one" in in reference to.

10:37 a.m. -- Gurley is looking through a large file folder.

10:38 a.m. -- Testimony resumes.

Gurley is asking about the Sept. 21, 2012, 7:02 p.m. statement. Bevell said another investigator took that statement.

The detective said that interview was also taped.

"Did you come to court when he entered a plea in this case?" Gurley asked.

"Yes, sir," Bevell said, adding that, to his knowledge, Butts gave another statement that day.

The detective said he never advised Butts of his rights, because he was never officially in custody.

"How many times did you call the medical examiner before they finalized their report?" Gurley asked.

Bevell said "I couldn't tell you."

The detective said that after the initial interview with Jerome Butts, he sought murder charges in the case.

Gurley is asking Bevell if he ever asked questions about gangs.

The detective said Antonio King and Diamond Sampson never indicated the McLaurin was in possession of a firearm the day he disappeared.

Gurley is now asking about the frequency of Bevell's calls to the Chief Medical Examiner's Office in Chapel Hill.

"I called quite often," Bevell said.

The detective recapped a few of those calls for the court.

"Where did you arrest Mr. Joyner," Gurley asked.

"Mr. Joyner was actually arrested by the Sheriff's Department," Bevell said.

He testified that Joyner was "very much in custody" when he was read his rights.

Gurley is, again, asking about the gang "Folk."

10:51 a.m. -- Delbridge is asking Bevell to explain Miranda Rights.

Bevell said "if they're in custody and not free to leave, you read them their Miranda Rights."

But Joyner, he said, "was told he was free to leave" and not under arrest, so there was no need to read him his rights.

10:53 a.m. -- Bevell steps down.

10:54 a.m. -- The state calls its fourteenth witness, Josh Carter.

Carter told the court he has known the defendant for "a couple years."

"He came and stayed with me," Carter said.

They were friends to the extent that Joyner would sometimes spend the night.

They would play cards and hang out, Carter said.

"We all smoked marijuana," he said.

Carter said he had been to Joyner's house, "a couple times," but that they usually hung out at his place.

He said he knew Jerome Butts, "through Mr. Joyner."

He also knew Curtis Ethridge and Kevin Smith.

Carter said he was the only one of them who didn't live with a parent or grandparent.

Sept. 10, 2012, Joyner asked him to give him an alibi, Carter said.

Sept. 9, 2012, Joyner and Smith told Carter they "snatched (McLaurin) up," Carter said.

The next day, Joyner asked Carter to tell the police the two were in the tattoo shop together all day.

Carter is now recounting what he said he heard from Joyner about what happened the day McLaurin died.

"They set him on fire," he said, after telling the court about the drug deal and shooting.

"(Joyner) said he was gonna keep it real," Carter said. "That's when he told me the story."

The young man agreed to provide Joyner with an alibi, he said. 

More than a week later, Bevell talked to him. It was the day Bevell showed up at his house looking from Joyner.

"They asked him (to go)," Carter said, adding that Joyner agreed and returned later that day.

The defendant asked Carter to call the "tattoo guy" to cover for him, he said.

He made the call.

A few days later, he started to get worried that his alibi was, in Delbridge's words, "falling apart."

"I told Mr. Bevell that Leonard was not with me," Carter said. "He asked me the truth."

But he only gave him "part truths."

Finally, he told Bevell what Joyner had confessed to, Carter said.

But he did not tel them where the body was -- even though he knew, after "riding there" with Joyner and Smith.

"I was not exactly sure the exact spot, but I knew the property he was on," Carter said. 

Many discussions about the disposal of the body were held at his house beginning Sept. 10, 2012.

They told him that they had "burned the body and most of the evidence," Carter said.

"This was at your house?" Delbridge said.

"Yes, sir," Carter said.

"They came up with a plan to go out there and move the body," he said.

He said that Joyner said the other suspects were "dumb."

"They already had shovels and gloves in the car," Carter said.

He rode out to the location with Kevin Smith and Jerome Butts.

Joyner did not go.

He sent Carter to, in Delbridge's words, "supervised."

They dug up the body while Carter "walked around," he said.

"Once we got to my house, Mr. Joyner asked them if they were done," Carter said. "They said, 'No,' and he told them to hurry up."

They left again and when they returned later on, they burned their clothes, he said.

Carter said he was "pretty sure" they moved the body with a tarp he and Joyner had purchased earlier that day.

Delbridge asked Carter if he recognized a birds-eye photograph of the burial site.

"Yes, sir," he said. "That's where they buried him at."

Carter said he didn't actually witness the digging up of the body and the second burial of it -- that he was walking around smoking cigarettes.

Delbridge asked Carter to confirm that he pledged not to charge him if he showed up and "told the truth."

11:19 a.m. -- Cross-examination begins and Gurley asked Carter how many times he had spoken with Bevell. He said, "a few."

Carter said that Bevell had mentioned the potential of charging him with a crime.

Gurley is asking him to recount much of what he just testified to -- the story of what happened Sept. 9, 2012.

Carter said he did not recall saying that "Ken was dead or lying unconscious in the car."

He said that it was he, Butts and Smith who went to the burial site when it was moved -- but denied that he helped them do it.

"So you just went out there just to go?" Gurley said.

"Yes, sir," Carter said.

The young man is listing his prior charges to the jury -- possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of stolen goods and communicating threats.

Carter said he told the men it would be a good idea to strip the interior of the car that McLaurin was shot in, but denied that he detailed how to accomplish it.

11:25 a.m. -- Delbridge's redirect has begun and Carter said he was "not exactly sure" what Butts and Smith found at the first burial site while they were digging up McLaurin's remains.

He said when he got back to house from the site, Joyner was still there and told Butts and Smith to "hurry up" and finish their work at the site.

11:27 a.m. -- Gurley's redirect has begun and Carter is identifying the burial sites on a birds-eye photograph taken by the Goldsboro Police Department.

"Why did you go out there?" Gurley said.

"I don't know sir. I was just trying to help out a friend," Carter said.

11:29 a.m. -- Carter steps down and Jones tells the jury that it is time for the morning break. Court will resume at 11:50 a.m.

11:49 a.m. -- A man who was removed from the courtroom earlier in the morning for creating an undisclosed disturbance just tried to come back into Courtroom No. 1. He was kicked out, again, by a Wayne County Sheriff's Office deputy.

11:51 a.m. -- Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Arnold Jones is back in the courtroom and has called for the jury.

11:52 a.m. -- The jury is back in the courtroom.

11:53 a.m. -- The state calls its fifteenth witness, Curtis Ethridge (Ethridge was one of four men charged with the murder and kidnapping of McLaurin and has already entered a guilty plea, in exchange for his testimony)

11:54 a.m. -- Ethridge is being brought into the courtroom by Wayne County Sheriff's Office deputies.

11:55 a.m. -- Delbridge begins his line of questioning.

Ethridge said is currently 19, but when McLaurin disappeared, he was only 17.

He testified that he and Kevin Smith, "grew up together" -- that he knew Jerome Butts "through Kevin."

He said he also knows Joyner that he was, in Delbridge's words, "older than everybody."

Delbridge is asking Ethridge to identify his home on a large map.

He said that Smith and Josh Carter lived near him.

Ethridge said in 2012, he was a student at Spring Creek High School --but that Joyner and Butts "had graduated."

"(Joyner) was tryin' to go to Wayne Community," he said. 

Ethridge said he and the men got together nearly daily --a lot of times at Carter's house.

"Sit around, chill, smoke weed," he said.

He said everybody smoked a lot of marijuana every day.

Butts, he said, had a car, but he, Smith and Joyner did not -- so he would drive them around a lot.

"Me, Leonard and Jerome was goin' to get some weed," he said.

They arrived at Bain Street and called McLaurin, he said.

Once in the car, McLaurin pulled a gun, Ethridge said.

"Leonard and Ken were fighting for the gun," he said. "The gun went off."

"Leonard said, 'Put that gun away. We don't need no gun. We got a shovel," Ethridge said.

Butts, he said, was "sitting on top of Ken."

When they got to the first burial site, Smith, he said, hit him "three or four times."

Smith, Ethridge said, poured gasoline on McLaurin.

He, Smith and Joyner each fired shots at McLaurin at the site, he said.

Ethridge moved to South Carolina and came back when his grandmother told him the police were looking for him.

The kind of marijuana they wanted was called, "loud."

Butts, he said, drove the car to Goldsboro so they could get some of it.

Joyner, he said, knew Antonio King and called him to line up a deal.

On Bain Street, Butts was driving and Ethridge was in the back seat.

Butts was also in the car.

"We were facing WAGES," he said. 

Ethridge is showing, on a map, where the car was parked.

When they arrived, Joyner was on the phone.

"He called and said, 'Where y'all at?'" Ethridge said.

They had been sitting there five to ten minutes and had $200 on them, he said.

Joyner had "it all," he said.

"Ken walked up," Ethridge said.

He knew him because they used to go to church together, he said.

"He asked us what we wanted. We told him. He asked us how much we had. We told him," Ethridge said. "Then he pulled out the guy."

He said he tried to wrestle the gun from McLaurin.

"Jerome hopped out ... then I got out," he said. "While I was out, the gun went off."

He said he couldn't see what was going on, but heard the gun go off.

Joyner told them to get in the car and they did and drove off.

Butts "got on top of Ken," he said, adding that he crawled from the back to the front.

Joyner, he said, was the driver at this point.

They made a right on Royall Avenue and then a left on Ash Street.

They ended up on Highway 111, he said.

Ethridge said Joyner was on the phone with Smith.

"He said, 'Get ready. Somebody tried to rob us,'" Ethridge said.

They picked up Smith about 10 minutes later, he said.

"I heard Ken say, '(Expletive) ya'll,'" Ethridge said, adding that he was "struggling a little bit."

McLaurin, he said, was "folded up" -- his head on the floorboard. Butts was still holding him down, he said.

They picked up Smith "right at his house," Ethridge said.

Joyner, he said, told Smith to "get a shovel."

Butts' "whole body" was still on McLaurin, he said.

"(Smith) asked Ken why he tried to rob us," Ethridge said. "Ken kept saying (expletive) y'all."

They drove, he said, to Seven Springs -- but that there was no discussion about where they were going.

Joyner, he said, had been to the path off Carmack Road with him before to "smoke weed" and shoot guns.

Ethridge said as they got closer to Seven Springs, Smith and Joyner discussed where they were headed.

"When we got to Highway 55, that's when the conversation came up," Ethridge said.

He said they got out of the car and started digging a hole. Smith "dragged him out of the car" and Joyner "hit him with a shovel."

Ethridge and Smith went to a gas station and bought some gasoline.

They came back and lit a fire over McLaurin's body and watched it burn "about five minutes."

12:31 p.m. -- Lunch break. Court will resume at 2 p.m. 

2:00 p.m. -- Curtis Ethridge is back on the witness stand. Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Arnold Jones, though, is not yet back in the courtroom -- nor is the jury.

2:03 p.m. -- Jones has entered the courtroom and is talking to Matt Raynor, the young man who was removed from court earlier. He told him no talking was allowed. "If you are talking in the courtroom ... or sitting in a position other than an upright position ... I am going to have you removed. That's called respect."

2:05 p.m. -- Jones has called for the jury.

2:06 p.m. -- The jury is back and Ethridge's testimony resumes.

Delbridge is reminding Ethridge that he agreed to testify in exchange for his a guilty plea to second-degree murder.

2:07 p.m. -- Cross-examination begins and defense attorney Charles Gurley is asking Ethridge if he was ever read his rights.

"Not that I can remember," he replied.

Ethridge told police, at first, that he wasn't in the car, he said.

He said he came back from South Carolina after he received a call from his grandmother.

Ethridge said he remembers telling the police, during his first interview, that "the boy shot himself."

He said he remembers telling the investigator that he was "scared for his life."

Ethridge said the investigator told him the other guys were going to pin the crime on him and that is what convinced him to make his next two statements to the police.

Gurley asked if McLaurin was moving when he was ultimately removed from the car off Carmack Road.

"No, sir," he replied.

2:12 p.m. -- Ethridge is reviewing the statement he signed at the GPD. He said he did not write the statement.

"You ended up doing a plea deal ... is that right?" Gurley asked.

"Yes, sir," Ethridge said.

Ethridge has spent the majority of time on the witness stand answering questions with his head hung.

"You were at that scene weren't you?" Gurley said.

"Yes, sir," Ethridge said.

Gurley asked why the young man kept lying to police.

"I tried to get myself out of trouble," he said. 

Gurley is asking when he was asked to testify against Joyner.

"When they indicted me," Ethridge said.

2:18 p.m. -- Delbridge begins his redirect.

"Tell them why you didn't tell the whole truth," he said.

"I didn't want to get in trouble," he replied.

Delbridge asked if McLaurin was still alive when he was dragged out of the car and hit with the shovel.

"He was alive?" Delbridge asked.

"Yes, sir," Ethridge said.

The young man said he did make true statements before he was ever charged -- including that Joyner called Smith from the car after McLaurin had been shot and told him to be ready and to get a shovel.

2:23 p.m. -- The state calls its sixteenth witness, Kevin Smith (Smith was was one of four men charged with the murder and kidnapping of McLaurin and has already entered a guilty plea, in exchange for his testimony)

2:29 p.m. -- Smith just entered the courtroom and is taking the stand. He gave Joyner a head nod as he walked by him.

2:30 p.m. -- Delbridge begins his line of questioning.

Smith told the court he is 20 years old, but was only 18 years old at the time.

He said he and Ethridge grew up together and were good friends.

Smith testified the two have lived in Hickory Hills "since we were little."

At the time of the crime, both his mother and stepfather were in jail.

He said he smoked marijuana with his friends, "just about every day" -- that Ethridge smoked with him.

Smith said he knows Butts and that the young man lived close to him -- that he had a car and gave them rides.

He said he knew Joyner, "from the neighborhood."

Using an aerial photograph, Smith is pointing out, using a long, wooden stick, where he, Butts, Ethridge, Joyner and Josh Carter lived.

He said he went to Carter's house to "hang around -- smoke."

Smith said he saw Joyner there because Joyner, "used to stay there."

Delbridge asked him about Sept. 9, 2012.

"Do you remember them going into town to get some dope?" Delbridge asked.

"Yes, sir," Smith replied.

He testified that Joyner, Butts and Ethridge went together to "get some weed."

Smith said he chose "not to go."

"They drove Jerome's car," he said, adding that Butts was driving when they left.

"I got a phone call from Joyner," he said. "He said somebody tried to rob him and to be ready."

Smith grabbed a bag of guns that he had.

"They pulled up in front of my house," he said, adding that Joyner was driving and Ethridge and Butts were in the car.

"I went to the back passenger's seat," he said.

Joyner, "told me to get a shovel," Smith said.

So he did.

He got in the car and asked who tried to rob them and Butts said, "We got him," Smith said.

At that point, he realized that somebody else was in the car.

He asked McLaurin, "Why you try to rob my boys?"

McLaurin responded, "My homeboys are gonna find me," Smith said.

That happened, he said, as they were driving toward Seven Springs.

He knew they were going to Seven Springs because "that's where (Joyner) said we were gonna take him."

"He said, 'We're going to Seven Springs to bury him,'" Smith said. 

They drove to a place off Carmack Road where they used to "smoke weed and chill," he said.

Smith said he had been there two or three times.

"Was anybody having to give Leonard Joyner directions on where to go?" Delbridge asked.

"Nah," Smith replied.

He said they drove the car and "went to the burial site."

"We pulled up ... and parked. Me and Leonard got out and started digging," Smith said, adding that he hit McLaurin with the shovel.

"After I hit him the last time, he laid down," he said.

Joyner also hit him with the shovel, Smith said.

They covered the body with leaves and set it on fire, but told Butts and Ethridge to "go get some gas," he said.

They left and while they were gone, Joyner and Smith "smoked some weed.

Ten minutes later, "we poured some gas on him."

Smith said he used a lighter to start a second fire.

"He won't breathing," he said. "He won't making no noise."

"How long did that second fire burn?" Delbridge said.

"About two minutes," adding that they covered the burn pit after the fire went out.

Smith said they went to Butts' house and washed their hands, out some items in a dumpster and "went back to the neighborhood."

Smith said they then went to Carter's house.

"We was just talking about ... how to get rid of the body," he said. 

A few days later, he went back to the site of the first burial with Butts and Carter and moved the body.

After they dug up the remains, they took Carter back home," he said.

Smith said they "smoked some more weed."

"We took the clothes that we had on and burned them," he said.

Smith said they took Butts' car and "took out all the interior ... the carpet and stuff."

Joyner was not present for that, he said.

They then burned everything they removed, Smith said.

"You gave a statement to the police before you were ever arrested, right?" Delbridge said.

"Yes, sir," Smith said.

In that statement, before he was ever arrested, he said Joyner told him to get the shovel and that McLaurin was still alive when they pulled him out of the car.

Smith told the jury about his plea deal and that he knew he had to tell the truth on the stand in order for the agreement to stand.

2:58 p.m. -- Cross-examination begins and Gurley is asking Smith to identify a piece of paper.

Smith said it was his "plea document."

"Was part of your reason for signing this to testify in this case?" Gurley asked.

"Yes, sir," Smith replied.

He said he remembers the first time he was at the GPD -- Sept. 21, 2012.

"You tried to tell him what happened ... right?" Gurley said.

Smith said he was not present until he had gotten picked up.

He said he told Bevell that McLaurin tried to rob his friends -- that the boy shot himself twice.

Smith said he did not remember specifics from her first interview but Bevell said, "if I knew anything, I needed to fess up."

He said he knew he was free to leave that interview at any time and was not read his rights.

Gurley asked him about his arrest and how many statements he gave to police.

"I think three," Smith said, adding that he was at the GPD headquarters "maybe an hour."

Smith identified for Gurley a statement he signed Sept. 21, 2012, that said he wasn't sure if McLaurin was dead or alive when they arrived at the site off Carmack Road.

Smith said he did not remember saying that.

"It was a year-and-a-half ago," he said. 

Smith said he was asked to testify when he accepted his plea.

3:08 p.m. -- A juror has to use the bathroom so testimony will resume when she returns.

3:11 p.m. -- She's back. Testimony resumes.

Gurley is asking about differences in statements made before and after he accepted a plea arrangement with the state.

"How did Ken ... get out of the car?" Gurley asked.

"Me and (Butts) pulled him out," Smith said. "He was still breathing."

Smith said before he hit McLaurin with the shovel, the boy said, "Tell my mother I love her."

3:15 p.m. -- Delbridge begins his redirect.

Smith said he knows the truth is all that matters -- that he is not, at this point, lying to make his situation better.

He said he is sure Joyner called him that day and that McLaurin was alive when they arrived at the first burial site.

Smith said when he gave his first statement, he was trying to make the situation "the best" for him he possibly could.

Delbridge is asking him to read the first statement he gave police -- before he was arrested.

It says that Joyner hit him with a shovel and called him that day before he got in the car.

In that statement, Smith also said McLaurin made a "grunt or something" after he was hit with the shovel at the first burial site.

3:20 p.m. -- Gurley begins his redirect.

Smith said he knew how important it was for him to testify -- as far as his plea deal was concerned.

"You weren't there at all when the robbery took place, where you?" Gurley said.

"No, sir," he said.

3:22 p.m. -- Smith steps down.

3:23 p.m. -- The state calls its seventeenth witness, Jerome Butts. The court will break until 3:45 p.m. to give Butts time to get to the courtroom (Butts was was one of four men charged with the murder and kidnapping of McLaurin and has already entered a guilty plea, in exchange for his testimony)

3:46 p.m. -- Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Arnold Jones is back in the courtroom and has called for Butts to be brought in.

3:47 p.m. -- Jones calls for the jury.

3:50 p.m. -- Butts is making his way to the stand.

3:51 p.m. -- Delbridge begins his line of questioning.

Butts said he is 20 years old and that back in September 2012, he was 19.

He said back then, he was, in Delbridge's words, "smoking a lot of dope."

Butts said he had a Dodge Dynasty and that his parents bought it for him.

He said he knows Kevin Smith "from school."

He graduated from high school in 2012.

Butts characterized Smith as a "smoking buddy."

Other smoking buddies including Joyner, Ethridge and Carter.

Of those people, Ethridge was his closest friend.

Delbridge is asking him to, using an aerial photograph, point out where he lived in 2012.

Butts pointed out the Hickory Hills area and where Smith, Ethridge, Carter and Joyner lived.

He said he was the only one of the suspects who had a car -- that he gave them rides often.

He said that he wasn't "quite sure" when he first met Joyner, but that they met "in the neighborhood."

Joyner, he said, was friends with Ethridge and Smith.

Butts said Joyner was the oldest of the four people "involved in this thing."

He said he purchased marijuana from Joyner.

Delbridge asked if he remembers Sept. 9, 2012.

"Yes," Butts replied.

He went to Hickory Hills that day to "skateboard in the neighborhood."

"Leonard Joyner needed a ride to Goldsboro, so I went back home to get my car," he said.

Butts said he did not know, at first, why Joyner needed a ride.

Later, he found out it was so that he could "buy some marijuana."

Butts said that he, Joyner and Ethridge went to buy the drugs.

He said they traveled to Goldsboro by way of 111 South and Highway 70.

Butts said Joyner was telling him where to go.

He was the passenger in the car, Butts said.

Ethridge was in the back seat, he added.

Joyner told him to park on the side of the road -- a road he had never been down before.

"He was meeting someone," Butts said, adding that he did not know who that person was.

Joyner, he said, was on the phone.

They waited "about 10 minutes."

"Someone had approached the car," Butts said. "He got in the back seat."

McLaurin, he said, pulled out a gun and hit Ethridge with it in the eye.

After that, Ethridge and Butts got out of the car.

"At this point, I see Leonard grab the guy and the gun," he said. "They began tussling with the gun."

Butts said three of the car doors were open at that time.

"I was looking in the car," he said.

Joyner told him to get in the car, so he did.

Butts said he got into the front passenger seat because Joyner was now in the driver's seat.

"He told me to come help him," he said. "He told me to hold him down."

McLaurin's head and torso were "toward the floor" and Butts said he was holding him down with his knees.

Butts said Joyner pulled McLaurin from the back seat to the front seat.

He said he was scared "I might get shot."

A lady came outside and they told her they were getting robbed and that they needed help -- to call 911.

"At this point, Ken was talking junk -- cussin' at us," he said. "Leonard and Ken was tussling for the gun and I was on top of him."

Joyner, he said, asked for his keys. They were on the dashboard and he grabbed them, cranked the car and drove off, Butts said.

"He used one hand to put the key in," he said. 

McLaurin was "cursin' at us," but he couldn't get up, "because I was on his back," Butts said.

"Ken was cussin', saying he was gonna shoot," he said, adding that Joyner pulled out a knife and "started poking him with it to try to get him to let go of the gun."

Joyner now, had control of the gun and they continued toward Highway 111, Butts said.

He said they were stopped at a light when Joyner was stabbing McLaurin.

"When the gunshot happened, do you know where you were?" Delbridge asked.

"At the intersection of Royall (Avenue) and some other street," Butts said.

Once Joyner got control of the gun, Butts saw it. He described it, simply, as "a handgun."

He said he does not know what happened to the gun.

"Leonard told me to squat so that nobody would see me," Butts said.

Ethridge, he said, was still in the back seat.

Butts said he could not see where the car was going because he was still squatted down.

McLaurin, he added, was moving his legs and upper body.

"What were you doing?" Delbridge asked.

"Squatting down on top of him," Butts said.

He said he did not know whether or not there was blood on the passenger seat when it was removed -- and burned -- by Smith and others.

As they drove to Seven Springs, he heard a phone call being made.

"Leonard was making a phone call," he said. "I heard him talking. ... (He said) that we had been robbed and to get a shovel."

"We kept driving until we got to a point where we stopped, he added. "I noticed that we were in Hickory Hills, at Kevin's house. Kevin came out with a black bag. Leonard told him to turn around and take that back and to get a shovel."

Butts said Smith returned to the car with a shovel and Joyner started driving again.

He was still on top of McLaurin.

"He was, at this point, he was still cursing," Butts said.

Smith, he said, asked McLaurin why he robbed the men.

McLaurin started cursing again, Butts said.

The drove for "a good little spell."

"Was there any discussion about where y'all were going?" Delbridge asked.

"Yes," Butts replied.

He said Smith and Joyner discussed where they were taking McLaurin.

"Leonard said, 'Seven Springs,'" he said.

Butts said that the men talked about going to a location where they "had shot guns before."

The car stopped "in a wooded area, a field," he said, adding that he had never been there before.

But it was clear to him that at least Smith had been.

Butts identified "the first burial site," using a photograph of the scene taken by Goldsboro police officers.

Using a long, wooden stick, he pointed to where they took McLaurin.

"Leonard got out of the car and got the shovel and started digging," Butts said, adding that Smith was out of the car, too.

"I was inside the vehicle ... still sitting on Kennedy," he said.

He said he was "not sure" what condition he was in at that point, but that the last time the 16-year-old had said anything was back at Hickory Hills when Smith got into the car.

"Kevin took over and started digging," he said. "We drug Kennedy out of the car. ... Kevin drug Kennedy into the grave he had just dug."

Smith proceeded to hit McLaurin with the shovel, Butts said.

Butts and Smith, at Joyner's request, went to buy gasoline, he said.

Butts said McLaurin spoke before he was hit by Smith with the shovel, but said nothing as he was being put into the grave after he was struck with the shovel.

Butts said McLaurin "lifted up" once he was in the grave, prompting Smith to hit him with the shovel again.

After that, he "laid back down" and there were no additional indications that he was alive.

A moment later, Joyner shot at the grave, Butts said. 

They covered the grave with pine straw and leaves and lit a fire.

One of the jurors is crying as Butts' testimony continues.

Butts paid for the gas they had pumped into an anti-freeze container.

"I believe it was about $3 (worth)," he said.

"When I came back, I parked the car. Kevin had got the gas and Leonard started pouring gas over him before Kevin took over," he said. "After that, Kevin lit the fire."

It burned "for some time."

Once the fire went out, they covered the grave.

"Was the fire out when the grave was covered?" Delbridge asked.

"Yes," Butts replied, adding that it was Smith who covered the grave with dirt, grass, "sticks and stuff."

Everybody, he said, fired the gun toward the grave at some point during that time.

"Leonard had fired the gun first," Butts said. 

Butts said he was only "a few feet away" from the grave when he fired the gun and that he "was not sure" if the bullets went into the grave.

After that, they went to Joyner's house. Joyner was on the phone and said he had sent "Charlie Brown" to Bain Street to get the drugs -- that he had not been there.

Several minutes later, Joyner asked him for a ride. They took a different car and hid his car behind his house.

"Who's idea was it to switch cars?" Delbridge asked.

"Leonard's," Butts replied.

He dropped the three men off in Hickory Hills and drove back home.

"I got home and changed my clothes," he said, adding that there was blood on them.

"I was scared," Butts said.

He got a phone call the next day from Josh Carter who told him to come by his house.

"When I got there ... everybody was just talking about random stuff until Josh came in," Butts said. "Josh was talking to Kevin and asked how deep the grave was dug."

He drove Carter and Smith back to the grave site a little while later.

"When I got there, Kevin and all of us has gotten out of the car," Butts said, adding that a decision was made to move the body.

Butts showed the jury, using a large wooden stick, where, on the photograph of the crime scene, they moved the body to.

He said he was wearing blue latex gloves when he helped move the body that night.

"I had followed Josh and Kevin toward the wooded area," he said, adding that Carter was in front of them and showed them where to put the body. "Josh had pointed out a spot. He started digging a ... hole."

Carter then asked Butts to take him home, so he did.

He and Smith went back to the grave site and, together, put McLaurin in the grave and covered it with dirt.

Butts said they then put sticks and other debris on top of the dirt and went back to Carter's house.

When they got there, they took off their clothes and burned them.

They also burned the gloves and the tarp they had used to move McLaurin's body.

Smith told Butts to go back to the site to recover anything they might had left there, so the two went there together.

After that, he went back home.

Carter told him to get rid of his car, but he "didn't want to."

So instead, days later, he stripped out the interior with help from Smith and Joyner and some other people.

They burned everything they removed from the vehicle.

5:09 p.m. -- Judge Jones calls it a day. Court will resume Tuesday at 9:30 a.m.