ROANOKE TIMES Copyright (c) 1996, Roanoke Times DATE: Wednesday, March 13, 1996 TAG: 9603130064 SECTION: VIRGINIA PAGE: C-1 EDITION: METRO SOURCE: LAURENCE HAMMACK STAFF WRITER
From the witness stand, Tina Trout pointed to an 18-year-old man and identified him as the hooded intruder who barged into a Northwest Roanoke house last October and fired a shot that killed Eric "Nike" Jones.
Trout's testimony led to the conviction Tuesday of Michael W. Crump for first-degree murder and then to a courtroom outburst of shouted obscenities and death threats as Crump's family and friends reacted to the verdict.
"Oh my God ... I'm going to kill you, ba woman yelled as she rose from her seat and rushed across the courtroom aisle to where Trout was seated on the front row. As Trout cowered in her seat, sheriff's deputies grabbed the woman and dragged her kicking and screaming from the courtroom.
Another deputy held a shocked Crump in a bearhug and walked him to a holding cell as the bedlam continued. Screams could be heard from the hallway, and one man who was upset with the verdict later overturned a trash can outside the courthouse.
The woman who threatened Trout was taken into custody. Authorities said charges were pending, but her identity was not released Tuesday night.
The outburst ended a daylong trial in Roanoke Circuit Court in which Trout's account of what happened in a Signal Hill Avenue home was the only evidence linking Crump to the crime.
Crump will face a maximum term of life in prison plus three years when he is sentenced by Judge Robert P. Doherty. The judge heard the case without a jury, at Crump's request.
Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Dennis Nagel said at the start of the trial that he would prove that robbery was the motive for Jones' death. But he said in his closing argument that the evidence had failed to show that.
Nevertheless, he said, Crump was "ready and willing" to kill Jones or another man for reasons that were never explained.
Defense attorney James Cargill challenged Trout's account, which he said changed in several respects from the time she called 911 early Oct. 3 to report the shooting to when she testified Tuesday.
Trout, whose sister was dating Jones at the time of the killing, testified that about seven people were at the home at 1 a.m. when someone came to the front door. Jones went to the door, where a man wearing dark clothes and a hood pulled down over his eyebrows was trying to force his way inside, she said.
The man pulled a black handgun and fired a shot, hitting Jones in the chest. Trout testified that the bullet might have been intended for someone else in the house. Jones, 21, died a short time later at Roanoke Memorial Hospital.
In a 911 call to police, Trout said it was too dark for her to see the intruder. Several days later, however, she picked Crump out of a photographic lineup after she told police she recognized him during a chance encounter at a convenience store.
But in questioning the reliability of eyewitness testimony, Cargill cited the case of Edward Honaker, the Roanoke man who was falsely convicted and imprisoned for rape based on what turned out to be the mistaken testimony of the victim.
Cargill also alluded to the fact that at the time of the killing, Jones' younger brother was awaiting sentencing on drug charges.
"Crime has taken Mrs. Jones' [other] son - he's serving time - and crime has taken Eric Jones on the night of Oct. 3," he said. "But it would be a crime if Mrs. Crump's son is taken today."
Cargill suggested that the killing could have been linked to a series of robberies in Northwest Roanoke by masked intruders, or that it was a "message" for Jones' brother, who at the time was providing information in a federal drug investigation.
Crump did not testify or present evidence Tuesday. But in a statement to a detective last October, he said he never knew Eric Jones and had nothing to do with his death.
"I try to keep the peace with everybody; you know what I'm saying?'' he said at the time.
LENGTH: Medium: 81 lines ILLUSTRATION: PHOTO: WAYNE DEEL/Staff. 1. Michael Crump was convicted Tuesdayby CNB
of the shooting death of Eric Jones. color. 2. Michael Crump
(center) listens as his lawyer, James Cargill, addresses the judge
Tuesday. Crump did not testify, but in a statement said he had
nothing to do with Eric Jones' death. KEYWORDS: ROMUR