Trial opens in 2013 murder of Jefferson City man

UPDATE: A jury in Boone County on Thursday evening convicted Domionte Cheatum of second-degree murder in the death of Anthony Unger of Jefferson City.

See Cheatum found guilty in Jefferson City murder

Earlier coverage, posted Thursday morning:

COLUMBIA, Mo. — The jury was seated Wednesday for the trial of Domionte “Racks” Cheatum for the alleged murder of Anthony Unger of Jefferson City.

The prosecution called forth three witnesses on the first day of the precedings at the Boone County Courthouse.

Unger was found June 23, 2013, in a Conley Road parking lot in Columbia with six gunshot wounds. While being held in jail on an unrelated warrant, Cheatum was charged with second-degree murder, first-degree robbery and armed criminal action.

During the questioning of the prospective jurors, defense attorney Derek Roe pointed out Cheatum, a young black man, was being tried by a jury of his “peers,” but it included no young black men.

Roe also stated the defense had not made a decision about putting Cheatum on the stand and will not make that decision until further in the trial.

In her opening statement, Prosecutor Stephanie Morell told the jury Cheatum had shot and killed Unger because Cheatum did not want to pay for a pound of marijuana.

Roe’s opening statement claimed Cheatum did not shoot Unger nor did he intend to rob him. He supported this statement by claiming witness reports contradict each other, and police were unable to find sufficient evidence.

Joycelynn Brown, an acquaintance of Unger and the first prosecution witness, said she accompanied Unger to Columbia from Jefferson City to sell the marijuana, but she did not know where she was going or why she was going there until they arrived at the Hy-Vee location where Unger was shot.

When Brown arrived with Unger at the store, they were met by Samuel Butler, who faces the same charges as Cheatum. Brown said after Butler left their vehicle, Cheatum returned, left and then returned again with a .40-caliber pistol.

Brown testified she fled the vehicle and, as she ran screaming, heard multiple gunshots being fired. When she returned to a fatally wounded Unger, she yelled for someone to call 911 and then called her mother.

Brown and Butler claimed to know each other, but not in a romantic nature. Defense attorney Jeremy Pilkington called Brown a liar and aggressively challenged her on her relationship with Butler. He told to the court phone records show at least 17 calls between the two.

Butler next took the stand wearing stripes and chains and denied he was seeing Brown socially. Roe then shared the records with the court that showed the 17 calls and multiple text messages between the two. Butler explained some of the calls were from him, but the majority of the calls were from a girlfriend of Brown’s who did not have her own phone.

Roe also shared texts between Butler and Unger that showed Unger mistrusted Butler and called him derogatory terms. Butler admitted arranging the drug deal with Unger with the intention to pay for the marijuana with counterfeit money supplied by Cheatum.

Asked why Unger mistrusted and insulted him, Butler said that was “the way of the game.” And when asked why he was conning his supposed friend, he could not give a definite answer. He just shook his head and said “I don’t know.”

Roe then alleged Butler was the shooter and he did this because of some left over feelings for Brown. Roe said Butler was attempting to show Brown “just how tough” he was. Butler denied these allegations.

Haley Pryce took the stand as the next prosecution witness, and admitted to being Cheatum’s girlfriend. She testified to giving Cheatum and Butler a ride on the night of the shooting. She said Cheatum was not acting out of the ordinary.

She also said Cheatum was not covered in blood nor did she notice any blood on him, which contradicted Butler’s statements that Cheatum had blood on his hands and one of his legs. The police were not able to find any of the victim’s blood either in her vehicle or home, said Roe.

Before Pryce could conclude her statement, the power to the courthouse was lost.

She finished answering questions for the prosecution and defense in the dim light of the evening sun that poured through the blinds of the courthouse windows, and the Judge Christine Carpenter called it a day.

The trial will resume at 8 a.m. today.

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