The Nasser Hamad aggravated murder case has concluded for the day after about a dozen witnesses testified about what they saw of the shootings that killed two young men and injured three other people Feb. 25 at Hamad's home along state Route 46 in Howland.
There were, in fact, so many witnesses, that Judge Ronald Rice asked at the end of the day whether prosecutors needed to call the remaining eyewitnesses. Chris Becker, assistant county prosecutor, assured the judge that each witness had specific observations that needed to be introduced in the case.
The witnesses followed opening arguments in which prosecutors told jurors that they would hear the the testimony of "17 unbiased witnesses" to the shootings.
Two people died and three were injured when Hamad fired at five people who had come to his house in a months-long feud involving Hamad and his girlfriend's family over the woman leaving her husband and living with Hamad, police said.
Police say the confrontation began with a fist fight between Hamad and one of the five, after which the five returned to their minivan near the road. Afterwards, Hamad went to his house, retrieved a gun and fired at the five. After his bullets ran out, he reloaded in the house and went back to the van and fired again.
Defense counsel argued that Hamad fired at the five because he believed they had a weapon and that if they came to the house to fire at him, the house would not protect he and his girlfriend from the gunfire.
Defense attorney David Doughten said Hamad yelled at the five to stop as they went toward the van and they didn't. He said he fired after seeing one of the five reaching for something in the van.
Testimony resumes at 9 a.m. Tuesday.2:50 p.m.
Following the opening statements from prosecutors and a defense attorney this morning in the Nasser Hamad aggravated murder trial, prosecutors have presented handful of witnesses — some of the 17 people who were driving along the busy Route 46 corridor in Howland near the Eastwood Mall where the killings of two people took place Feb. 25.
One was Ben Moody, an off-duty emergency medical technician for the Howland Police Department who stopped his vehicle when one of the five people shot that day walked out into the road seeking help.
Moody said he soon realized that this was not a car accident or medical problem because Hamad started shooting into a minivan parked in Hamad's driveway at a strange angle near Route 46.
Moody got back in his vehicle and drove toward the back of Hamad's property before realizing there was no exit there. He continued hearing gunfire from there as he fled on foot to a nearby home.
David Doughten, attorney for Nasser Hamad, told jurors in opening statements in Hamad's aggravated murder trial that when the fatal Feb. 25 confrontation began in his front yard on state Route 46 in Howland, Hamad didn't know the identity of the woman and young man who were standing there.
As April Trent Vokes started speaking to him, her son, John Shively, "circled" around behind. When he became concerned, Hamad turned and punched Shively, and the fight began.
Hamad felt something hard hitting him on the head, and several people were people kicking him with boots. Hamad sustained a wrist injury and possible concussion, Doughten said.
When the fight was over, Hamad went in the house, thinking about the threats members of his girlfriend's family had made toward him in the months before, Doughten said.
He told his girlfriend, Tracy Hendrickson, to get behind the fireplace in the house because that would be the only part of the house that would protect her from gunfire.
Once he had his gun, he went toward the car near the road in which Trent-Vokes, Shively and three other males had arrived told them "Stop. Stop. Stop," Doughten said. Hamad saw someone reaching down and told them to stop, but they wouldn't so he fired, Doughten said.
Hamad said one of the males threatened him with a knife. Hamad went back to the house to get more ammunition "because he expected to hear gunshots ringing out," Doughten said.
Hamad, who will will testify at the trial, "expected a sniper," Doughten said, and still "expected shots to ring out" at that point, Doughten said.
Chris Becker, assistant county prosecutor, told jurors in his opening statements this morning about 17 witnesses driving past the home of Nasser Hamad at the time of the Feb. 25 shootings, or of witnesses who lived nearby.
VIDEO: Opening statements in Hamad trial
One after another, he described what they saw: Hamad shooting into the van containing the five people who came to his house that day. Some saw Hamad putting his gun inside the car as he fired.
Many described the angry words he spoke to the shooting victims after the shootings took place.
"Whose story is substantiated with evidence and testimony of 17 unbiased witnesses," Becker said.
An attorney for Hamad will give his opening statements to the jury next.
With the layout of the state Route 46 home of Nasser Hamad of Howland fresh in their minds, jurors today are to hear the opening statements in Hamad’s aggravated murder trial.
They will hear from Mike Burnett or Chris Becker, assistant Trumbull County prosecutors, and will hear from one of the three defense attorneys for Hamad next. They are David Doughten, Robert Dixon and Geoffrey Oglesby.
Jury selection wrapped up Thursday, followed Friday by jurors being taken to the scene of the Feb. 25 confrontation in the front yard of Hamad’s home, where two people were killed and three others injured.
The conflict was the culmination of a months-long feud involving Hamad, 48, his girlfriend, Tracy Hendrickson, 47, and Hendrickson’s family, which lived just around the corner on Dawson Drive.
In addition to one member of Tracy Hendrickson's immediately family, the shootings involved four other people related by marriage to her.
Hamad is charged with aggravated murder in the deaths of Joshua Haber, 19, and Josh Williams, 20, of Woodbine Avenue, and gunshot injuries to Bryce Hendrickson, 20, John Shively, 17, and April Trent-Vokes, 42.
Tracy Hendrickson is the mother of Bryce Hendrickson, who died Sept. 30 in an apparent drug overdose at a home in McDonald. Trent-Vokes, who had recently moved to the area from Florida at the time of the shootings, is the mother of Haber and Shively.
If Hamad is convicted of of aggravated murder and the aggravated circumstance of trying to kill two or more people, a second phase of the trial will begin next week in which the same jurors will be asked whether he deserves the death penalty.
Judge Ronald Rice, who is presiding over the trial, could set aside the recommendation of the jury and select a different punishment, but such actions are judges are rare.
Police and prosecutors have said the Feb. 25 fight began with Shively and Hamad engaging in a fist fight near the front of his house with the other four nearby. Police have not said what the other four were doing.
After the fight was over, police said, Hamad went inside the house, got a gun, returned to the front yard and started firing at the five, who were in or near the van.
After Hamad's bullets ran out, he went back in the house, reloaded and returned to fire more shots, police said.
Among the witnesses expected to testify is an off-duty ambulance worker who stopped at Hamad's house thinking that the people there had been involved in a car accident. Instead, Hamad was in the house getting more ammunition after firing at them with one round of gunshots.
When Hamad returned to the van, the ambulance worker asked Hamad what happened.
Prosecutors allege Hamad said, “‘I’ll show you what happened,’ and [Hamad] proceeded to shoot into the van."
Prosecutors said this was the point where Hamad shot one of the victims in the back and killed him as he was trying to get back into the van.
The testimony phase of the trial is expected to last about two weeks.