By Ed Runyan
WARREN — There isn’t any “conclusive physical evidence” placing Eugene Cumberbatch at the scene of a double homicide on Wick Street Southeast, and only one person has testified that he saw him there — co-defendant Marcus Yager, a defense attorney told jurors Thursday.
“My client was not at the scene,” Atty. Joe Fritz told the jury during closing arguments in Cumberbatch’s murder trial.
Cumberbatch, 27, of Front Street Southwest, is charged with two counts of aggravated murder, two counts of murder and single counts of improperly firing a firearm into a house and felonious assault.
Cumberbatch could get life in prison if convicted of certain of the charges.
The jury deliberated three hours Thursday afternoon before retiring for the day. Deliberations resume at 9 a.m. today.
It is true that Cumberbatch hung out with co-defendants Eugene Henderson and Yager at a house on Pearl Street Southwest, Fritz said, but that doesn’t prove he was involved in the killings of Lloyd McCoy Jr., 11, and Marvin Chaney, 26, April 13.
Yager, meanwhile, has plenty of reasons to falsely accuse Cumberbatch of participating in the shooting, Fritz said.
“He’s protecting his own skin,” Fritz said.
Police believe Henderson and Cumberbatch shot into the house on Wick Street intending to kill Chaney over money and drugs they believe he stole from Henderson. Chaney died at the scene.
Lloyd was visiting his sister and other relatives in the house at the time the shots tore through the one-story house at about 9:50 p.m. Chaney was his sister’s boyfriend.
Chris Becker, assistant Trumbull County prosecutor, reminded jurors that two men inside a Pearl Street Southwest home April 13 testified about a conversation they overheard suggesting that Yager was telling the truth.
Joe Williams and Jeff Selep both testified that when Cumberbatch arrived at a house on Pearl Street where Henderson and Williams were living, Henderson loudly complained to Cumberbatch about Cumberbatch’s losing Henderson’s cell phone.
Williams also testified that Henderson came into the house awhile before that to take an AK-47 with him that he kept in the basement.
Prosecutors believe the arguing Selep and Williams overheard referred to events on Wick Street, where Yager said Cumberbatch held Henderson’s sunglasses and cell phone while Henderson fired an AK-47 assault rifle into a house.
Yager said Cumberbatch apparently dropped the glasses and phone, however, because police later found them on the street in front of the house.
Though the phone was destroyed so that no information inside it could be retrieved, DNA from skin cells was retrieved from the phone that may have come from Cumberbatch and Henderson.
Testimony from the two men on Pearl Street, coupled with Yager’s saying he was in the back seat of the car at the time of the shootings and DNA evidence make it clear that Cumberbatch was involved, Becker said.
Becker said Yager’s statements indicate that Cumberbatch fired one time with a 9 mm handgun that Yager gave him. The gun jammed after the first shot, however, Yager said. Police later recovered a 9 mm bullet casing at the scene and 24 casings from an AK-47 type of assault rifle.
Becker said he doesn’t think the single shot fired by Cumberbatch killed anyone, but Cumberbatch can be convicted of aggravated murder as long as he had “prior calculation and design” in the shootings and aided Henderson in the crimes.
Shooting the 9 mm and holding Henderson’s sunglasses and phone were all acts of aiding and abetting Henderson, Becker said.
“I submit the intent was to cause as much damage as possible at 2290 Wick St.,” Becker said.
The last witness for the prosecution was Brenda Girardi, a forensic scientist with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation in Richfield.
She said DNA from the sunglasses indicated that the chances that it had come from anyone but Cumberbatch were one in 540 people. The DNA from the cell phone indicated that the chance it had come from anyone but Cumberbatch was one in 423 people, she said.
Under cross-examination by Fritz, she agreed that there is no way to determine at what point Cumberbatch may have touched the glasses or phone and left skin cells on them. It could have been days before the shooting, she said.
The kind of DNA found on the glasses and phone are what are referred to as “touch DNA,” which comes from skin cells left on something a person touches, Girardi said.
Cumberbatch did not take the stand to testify on his own behalf, and Fritz did not call any other defense witnesses.