Testimony wraps up in trial for triple homicide suspect

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Opening statements in the trial against Artavius Richards, a man charged in a triple homicide earlier this year, started Tuesday. The jury was chosen Monday.

Richards and Darrell McDaniel are both facing three counts of murder. They’re suspected of killing three men execution style in a Lewis Street home in February. Mohamedtaha Omar, 23, Adam Mekki, 20, and Muhannad Tairab, 17, were found dead in the home.

DAY THREE OF TRIAL

The jury heard from several witnesses Wednesday in the third day of the trial, including the lead detective on the case. Much of the questions for the detective revolved around the state’s key witness, a woman who claims to have driven Richards and McDaniel to the area of the crime.

The jury also heard from other detectives and a mobile forensic expert who talked about general locations cell phones were detected during the time of the crime.

After about seven and a half hours of testimony both the state and the defense rested, meaning no more witnesses will be called to the stand. Closing arguments will start Thursday morning and the case will be handed over to the jury for a verdict afterwards.

DAY TWO OF TRIAL

In opening statements, prosecutors said the killings were the end result of a robbery. In court they said a woman claimed to have given the two men and another not facing charges a ride to buy marijuana. When they got to the area of Lewis Street she said they told her they were going to rob some men instead. They jumped out of the car and returned about five minutes later “looking scared”. The woman said McDaniel told her his gun accidentally went off and Richards said once that happened “they couldn’t have any witnesses”.

Artavius Richards, 19, Fort Wayne
Artavius Richards, 19, Fort Wayne 

The defense opened by telling the jury to pay close attention to the details. They said as witnesses take the stand they’ll hear there is not DNA, no fingerprints, no guns and really no physical evidence linking Richards to the crime. Richard’s attorneys also said that friend who claimed to have driven them to the area of the crime changed her story several times when being interviewed by police.

On Tuesday a total of 11 people were called to the stand to testify. The first three were the fathers of Omar, Mekki and Tairab. Then police officers and crime scene technicians took the stand to describe the scene where their bodies were found.

The final witness to take the stand Tuesday was that friend who said she gave them a ride. NewsChannel 15 is not using her name because she is in protective custody of the prosecutor’s office. She told investigators, after initially telling them she knew nothing, that McDaniel, Richards and the other man not facing charges wanted a ride to buy marijuana. She said when they got to the area Richards and McDaniel talked about “lashing”, slang for robbing, someone.

The woman said she tried to talk them out of it, but they jumped out of the car. About five minutes later she said they got back in the car and were nervous. She told the jury the man not charged was yelling at Richards asking him why he shot. She said McDaniel said he shot by accident. That’s when she told the jury that Richards said, “My brother shot. When my brother shot I couldn’t leave any witnesses”. After that the witness broke down on the stand and said she she feared for her life.

Since about September that witness has been in hiding. The prosecution has kept her up in a hotel and given her daily food allowances. In agreement for her cooperation they also had a warrant for her arrest out of Indianapolis dropped. The woman is a known prostitution, something the prosecution did not try to hide during the trial.

When the defense got a chance to question her they pointed out the lies she told police in their first interviews dating back to March, just weeks after the killings. Originally the witness said she didn’t know anything about the crime, but eventually changed her story to pinpoint McDaniel and Richards as the key suspects. They also pointed out the warrant dropped against her in agreement that she testify in the case.

The trial is scheduled to continue Wednesday. Prosecutors expect to get through all of their evidence then.

Seven months passed before they arrested Richards and McDaniel.

McDaniel’s trial isn’t until March. The reason Richard’s started Monday was because he asked for a speedy trial.