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YOUNGSTOWN MURDER TRIAL Defendant admits tossing gun into lake



Published: Thu, January 10, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Hughes said he had wanted to sell the gun for money to pay his delinquent electric bill.

By BOB JACKSON

VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- Melvin Hughes said he did the only thing he knew to do after Eugene McKinney was shot last September.

He drove to McKelvey Lake on the city's East Side and threw the AK-47 assault rifle into the water.

"I was always told that if you shoot somebody, get rid of the gun," Hughes said Wednesday. The gun was never found.

Hughes, 31, of East Marion Avenue, was testifying in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court, where he is on trial for aggravated murder and aggravated burglary. After hearing closing arguments from lawyers, jurors were sent home by Judge Maureen A. Cronin. They were to begin deliberating this morning.

Defendant's testimony: Hughes said he found the gun in the basement of an apartment building near his home. He took it to McKinney's house on Ferndale Avenue to sell it for money to have the electricity turned back on at his own home.

After Hughes loaded the gun, McKinney slapped at it, causing the weapon to fire, Hughes said. The two then wrestled over the weapon, tumbling into the kitchen.

Hughes said he yanked on the gun and as he pulled it away from McKinney, the butt struck a countertop and the gun fired again, this time hitting McKinney.

"We was slugging each other and the gun went off," Hughes said. "He let the gun go and he fell."

McKinney sat up and asked whether Hughes shot him because he'd had sex with Hughes' wife some five years earlier, Hughes said.

Two women who were in the house testified Tuesday that after Hughes shot McKinney, he said it was because McKinney had raped his wife. Hughes denied that on the witness stand.

Prosecutor's response: Assistant Prosecutor Timothy Franken said McKinney could not have sat up after being shot because a coroner's report showed that his spine had been shattered by the gunshot.

Franken also disputed Hughes' claim that the gun fired twice without anyone's pulling the trigger. Hughes insisted the gun was fired only twice, but he could not explain why police found three spent bullet casings, all in the kitchen.

He also could not explain why, if the shooting was accidental, he "sneaked out" of the house instead of calling for help for McKinney.

Franken said when police found Hughes' car in a garage on Stiles Avenue two days after the shooting, it was prepared for repainting. Hughes said he did that while waiting for a friend to drive him to another house, where he hid out for three days.

"That's how I get rid of stress," Hughes added.

bjackson@vindy.com




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