Air gun killing suspect told police he used gun on day of shooting
Published: August 13, 2010
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ST. CROIX — The man on trial for the killing of a homeless woman who was shot with a pellet rifle in 2007, had shot a pellet gun earlier that day while he was with a cousin, according to testimony Thursday.
Leonard Wilson Jr., facing a first-degree murder charge in the killing of Vicky Lynn Brewer, told the lead police investigator, Sgt. Dino Herbert, in an interview last year that he and his cousin had been in the back yard with a pellet rifle earlier in the day on Aug. 13, 2007.
Prosecutor Tom Sedar asked that an interview of Wilson that Herbert had videotaped March 25, 2009, be played for the jury Thursday, the third day of the trial.
“I did get a hold of it. I fired one shot,” Wilson said in the interview, speaking low and curtly to Herbert. “But it wasn’t like I see somebody and fired it, like what you’re talking about.”
Wilson, age 20 when Brewer was killed, said that after he fired the shot, he went back to the front porch on the house on Peter’s Farm Road in Western Suburb in Christiansted. There, he went about his weightlifting on the bench press on the front porch, he said.
He still was on the front porch when he heard that someone fell down, he told Herbert.
At the time of the interview, Wilson’s cousin, Debongo Graham, was in police custody for the murder. Brewer, age 41 when she died, collapsed on the grounds next to the Graham family’s property and the back yard where Graham and Wilson were said to have shot the pellet rifle.
Graham, who was 16 years old at the time of Brewer’s death, had been arrested nearly week before Wilson’s interview with Herbert.
On March 23, 2009, according to testimony, Pernell Towers Jr. shot at Wilson near LBJ housing community. Towers is Graham’s uncle, and Graham’s younger brothers — Lakesham and Blakeshan — were in the custody of Towers’ sister, Taheme Towers at the time.
Herbert originally was investigating the shot being fired, which is when Wilson mentioned Brewer’s slaying.
“He proceeded to tell me what happened,” Herbert said. “He indicated they got into an argument and that Pernell Towers was telling him that he better take the rap,” referring to the murder for which Debongo Graham was in custody.
“Then he proceeded to his vehicle and, while he was in his vehicle, Pernell Towers Jr. fired a shot,” Herbert said.
Police later arrested Towers for the shooting and said he was in possession of a gun, ammunition and marijuana.
Wilson’s attorney, Maxwell McIntosh, said that all Herbert really learned was that Pernell Towers Jr. wanted Wilson to take the blame for the incident, since his nephew was in custody — not that Wilson did it.
“He was pressured into taking the blame for the death of Vicky Brewer,” McIntosh said.
Earlier in the trial, the prosecution tried to get testimony from Lakesham and Blakeshan Graham and Taheme Towers that Wilson shot the weapon, but all denied having any knowledge of the incident.
Herbert first interviewed Wilson on March 24, but, after Wilson began talking about the incident involving Brewer, Herbert advised Wilson that he may be implicating himself in the murder. He asked Wilson to come in for a videotaped interview the following day.
In the video, when asked why he came in for the interview, Wilson said it was to clear his name.
“Concern of myself — of being implicated and people thinking I’m involved,” Wilson told Herbert.
“Did you shoot Vicky Herbert at any time?” asked Herbert.
“No,” Wilson replied.
Brewer was shot just after 4 p.m. in Western Suburb. She was seen hurrying up a hill next to the Graham household. She went to take a seat and slid out of the chair and onto the ground, coughing for breath, according to Clyde James, who was present at the time.
Brewer must have been nearby, because she could have only made it 20 to 30 feet before collapsing from the injury she sustained from the two pellets, said Dr. Michelle Dupre, the medical examiner who performed the autopsy on Brewer.
Brewer suffered two wounds from the pellets — one to her neck, the other to her left side, just under her armpit.
The one in Brewer’s neck pierced the soft tissue, penetrated her esophagus and wedged itself in her vertebrae. The wound would have been painful, but survivable, Dupre said.
The wound to her side was the mortal wound.
“The projectile entered right under her arm,” Dupre said. “It struck the heart, and it also struck the aorta, severing it or causing a hole.”
Brewer’s left lung also was punctured, and her chest cavity immediately began to fill with blood after her major artery was severed, filling her chest with close to half the blood in her body, compressing her heart and making it difficult to breathe, Dupre said.
“She would be gasping for breath,” the medical examiner said. “It would be bloody breath. She would be, basically, suffocating in her own blood.”
The pellet rifle that has been presented as the one that caused Brewer’s wounds, however, was found to be inoperable by FBI Firearms and Toolmarks examiner Erich Smith.
While it is similar to the weapon that was used, he said, the results were inconclusive.
— Contact reporter Daniel Shea at 774-8772 ext. 457 or e-mail email@example.com.