Testimony Gets Underway in Jennifer Ross Murder Trial

Lizzy Sprague cries under cross-examination Thursday.
Lizzy Sprague cries under cross-examination Thursday.

It's a murder trial many people in Savannah anticipated most of the past year: 19-year-old Jennifer Ross was shot during a Christmas Eve armed robbery last year, and died on New Year's Day.

There was a lot of nervous energy as testimony began Thursday.

During opening arguments, the state painted an ugly picture of the three defendants, while the defense laid the groundwork for their claims of mistaken identity. By the end of the day, emotions were running extremely high.

Prosecutor Christy Barker started the questioning Thursday by getting Jennifer Ross' friends to explain what happened at Orleans Square.

"A very hard object hit my head, and a loud noise, gun going off," explained Brett Finley, who was with Ross and several other people. "And then I was out of it for a few seconds maybe."

By the time Finley came to, another shot had been fired, and the three people who'd attacked the group had already scattered.

"I looked out and saw Jennifer in the road, and that's when I heard her saying 'I've been shot,'" he described. "She said that multiple times. I got my cell phone and called 911."

Defense attorneys for Michael Thorpe, Webster Wilson and Kevin Huckabee immediately started in on the witnesses, trying to plant the idea that Jennifer's friends never got a good look at their attackers.

Brian Daly, who's representing Webster Wilson, pointed to his client's gold teeth. "That's probably something you would have remembered, isn't it?" he asked.

"Uh, there was a gun in my face," answered Finley. "I looked at that gun a lot more than I looked at him."

"Exactly," replied Daly. "Exactly."

Another friend of Jennifer's, Lizzy Sprague, had a tough time keeping her composure: "I was very rattled at that time. I still am, and I mean, I'm doing the best I can."

"I understand," said Daly. "She was your best friend."

"Yes," said Sprague.

Daly then asked: "You want the people that police arrested convicted for this, don't you?"

"No, I want the people who did it to be arrested," Sprague replied, her voice cracking.

"You're not sure he did it, are you?" countered Daly. "You're not sure."

Amid tears, Sprague contended she can't describe Wilson very accurately, even today, because he doesn't have any prominent features; but that doesn't mean she can't recognize him.

Sprague and Finley have both been excused for now, and the prosecution will pick back up at 9am Friday.

WTOC's Michelle Paynter will be in the courthouse throughout the trial with frequent online updates on her Jennifer Ross Murder Trial blog.

Reported by: Chris Cowperthwaite, ccowperthwaite@wtoc.com