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Ex-basketball star Korleone Young testifies in murder trial

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Wednesday, March 13, 2013, at 11:43 p.m.
  • Updated Saturday, March 23, 2013, at 6:28 a.m.

Korleone Young said being grilled by homicide detectives is a lot like waiting for the start of a big basketball game.

“I wasn’t intimidated,” he told a Sedgwick County jury Wednesday. “I was anxious. … It was just an uncomfortable feeling for me altogether.”

Young, who was a basketball standout at East High School before going on to play professional basketball in the NBA and overseas, was a key witness in a homicide that occurred during a botched robbery on Jan. 19, 2011.

Details of that case are being recounted this week in Sedgwick County District Court as prosecutors try to prove that the killing occurred as Terrell Cole and Andre Lovett tried to rob a house at 1822 N. Minneapolis where a group of people had gathered to drink, gamble and shoot dice. During the course of the robbery, Wichita police said, Cole’s gun discharged and struck Lovett in the abdomen. He died the next day.

Young, who was celebrating a cousin’s birthday that night, said he happened to be in the house that night, and happened to be the one who opened the front door and let the would-be robbers inside.

Young said he didn’t know Cole or Lovett, and he was unable to identify Cole as one of the robbers.

Cole also is charged with aggravated intimidation of a witness for allegedly firing four shots into a house in the 2600 block of North Madison four days after the homicide. Young said the home belongs to his aunt, and he said he has spent much of his time at the house since returning to Wichita in 2009.

Prosecutor Justen Phelps told jurors in his opening statement that several people ran out of the house on North Minneapolis when one of the robbers burst through the door around 9 p.m. and cocked his gun. As people were scrambling, Phelps said, Cole fired a shot in Young’s direction. The bullet struck Lovett in the abdomen.

Phelps said a video camera at Wesley Medical Center later showed somebody in a blue minivan dropping Lovett off at the hospital. Phelps said the van, which was registered to Cole’s mother, had Lovett’s blood in the front seat.

Phelps also told the jury that the .45-caliber casing found at the scene of the shooting matched four casings found outside the home on North Madison.

Defense lawyer Richard Ney said in his opening statement that Cole was with Lovett on the day of the shooting, but the two parted ways before the shooting. Cole often let others drive his car, Ney said. He said several calls and text messages found on Lovett’s phone indicated that he was communicating with another acquaintance, who uses the nickname “Big,” in the hours before the shooting. Ney said there were no witnesses who could place his client at the shooting scene.

“No one ever said to the police, ‘I saw the person, and the person I saw was Terrell Cole,’ ” Ney said.

As the first witness for the prosecution, Young said he was unfamiliar with most of the people involved in the case.

“I didn’t know a lot of people there; this wasn’t my crowd,” he said. “It wasn’t uncomfortable, but it was a house I’d never been to before.”

He said he remembers hearing a knock and someone asking him to get the door. He said he looked through the peephole but was only able to vaguely make out two figures standing on the porch.

“If you’ve ever looked through a peephole, which all of us have, you know how objects look disfigured,” he said.

As soon as he unlocked the door, Young said, a man in a dark coat burst in and cocked a gun.

“That was enough for me,” he testified. “I was the first person out of that house.”

The trial resumes Thursday in the courtroom of District Judge Ben Burgess.

Reach Hurst Laviana at 316-268-6499 or hlaviana@wichitaeagle.com.

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