Sharon Cornelius said she started making plans early to spend New Year’s Eve 2012 with friends at the Kansas Star Casino in Mulvane.
One of the friends, Adji Tampone, never made the trip, she told a Sedgwick County jury Tuesday. She said she tried to contact Tampone, but he wasn’t answering his phone. His 2003 Cadillac Deville wasn’t parked in his driveway.
In the early morning hours of Jan. 3, 2013, Cornelius testified, she and her boyfriend stopped by Tampone’s house, went in through a sliding glass door in back and found him dead. Wichita police later classified the case as the city’s second homicide of 2013. Tampone’s Cadillac was later found near the scene of the first killing.
Jerone Hakien Brown, 20, is standing trial this week on two counts of first-degree murder in connection with the death of Tampone, 29, and the death of Shawn Rhone, 42, who was shot about 7 p.m. on Jan. 2, 2013, after being lured to a vacant house in the 1700 block of Northeast Parkway to sell some marijuana.
Brown and his brother, Shawn Malik Brown, 21, are charged in both homicides. Prosecutors said Tampone was killed because of a drug debt he owed to Shawn Brown. They said the brothers used Tampone’s Cadillac when they lured Rhone to the neighborhood where he was killed.
Cornelius said Tampone was a Wichita State student whose father had a government job in Africa and often sent him money. Among the witnesses testifying Tuesday was Cornelius’ boyfriend, Dennis O. Haynes, 40, who said Tampone’s father bought him the Cadillac and the house where he lived.
Haynes told the jury that he had brushes with both homicides in the case. He said he was in the QuikTrip at 13th and Oliver buying cigarettes about 6 p.m. on Jan. 2, 2012, when “some girl walks in and says some guy’s outside shot.”
Haynes said he went outside and saw Rhone, whom he knew as “Red,” on the pavement. He said he didn’t realize how badly he’d been hurt.
“I said, ‘What’s wrong,’ but he couldn’t talk,” he told the jury.
Police said Rhone apparently drove to the QuikTrip seeking help after being shot being shot a few blocks away.
After leaving the QuikTrip, Haynes said, he and Cornelius went back to the Kansas Star Casino. He said they stopped by Tampone’s house around 2 the next morning. Haynes said he went inside, found Tampone dead, then went back outside to tell Cornelius.
“I said I found him in there dead, and she called police,” he said.
Vannessa Minks was one of the first officers at the scene.
“His body was stiff,” she told the jury. “His hands were in position where they looked like they could have been tied at one point. … There wasn’t a whole lot of blood. We backed out. We weren’t sure what we had.”
The trial resumes Wednesday in the courtroom of District Judge Ben Burgess.