In the early morning hours of March 31, a car with five young adults pulled up to a cotton field near 127thEast and Pawnee.
Before the car left, according to testimony in a preliminary hearing Tuesday, a witness saw muzzle flashes in the darkness and heard four gunshots and a 19-year-old screaming, begging for his life.
The car left with only four people. The body of Jordan Turner, a hulking young man, a former South High School football star, remained behind until a farmer discovered it.
Before the gunshots, there had been an argument involving the five people who ended up together that night, the fight precipitated by the belief that Turner had in the past robbed 21-year-old Ebony Nguyen. That night, according to testimony, Turner sent a text saying he had robbed her. She reportedly was the one driving the car that went to the field that night. Now Nguyen is one of three co-defendants in Turner’s death. Her co-defendants are Kristofer Wright, 20, and Eric Jackson, 21.
After hearing the testimony Tuesday, Judge Gregory Waller found sufficient evidence that the three — each charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder — should face trial on Aug. 19. Not-guilty pleas have been entered. Nguyen’s attorney, Craig Robinson, argued there is no evidence of a conspiracy.
According to the testimony, mostly drawn from prosecutor Robert Short, the shooting unfolded this way:
It included late-night, underage drinking at Doc Howard’s, an Old Town nightclub where police have had to respond to crowds spilling out and turning violent after closing time. The club was busy that night. Eighteen-year-old Emma Spencer drank four vodka and cranberrys; Wright also drank. He had been her boyfriend for about three weeks. She knew he regularly carried a handgun, in a shorts pocket beneath his jeans. They stayed at Doc Howard’s until 2 a.m.
With them were Nguyen, Spencer’s best friend, and Jackson, who liked Nguyen. Turner, who had been big, strong and talented enough to draw the attention of college football programs, ended up with the group of four.
A conflict erupted because Nguyen suspected Turner of robbing her in the past. As the five drove around that night, a physical and verbal fight broke out in the car, with Nguyen and Turner trading blows in the front seat of Spencer’s car. She let Nguyen drive because she trusted her and because her license had been suspended and she had been drinking, Spencer testified.
Spencer sat in the back seat between Wright and Jackson. Everyone was yelling at Turner, and because of the arguing, Spencer told Turner to get out of the car.
But Turner stayed.
As they rode in the car, Spencer testified, Jackson leaned over in the back seat toward Wright. “Man, just give me the gun,” Jackson said.
They drove to near 127th East and Pawnee, to a dirt road surrounded by a cotton field and a few homes.
When the car was turned off, Turner asked: “Is this a setup?”
In her reply, Nguyen asked him if he was scared, Spencer testified. Jackson wanted to fight Turner. Spencer told everyone to get out of the car. She stayed in the back seat. The others got out and were positioned behind her. She knew there was scuffling but didn’t see it. She heard Turner say to Jackson, “You’re going to point a gun at me?”
The two men fought, and Turner, by far the bigger man, knocked Jackson unconscious.
Spencer saw Turner run past the side of her car and watched Wright, her boyfriend, follow him. She heard two gunshots.
Turner screamed. Wright had a gun. Turner ran into the field.
“He was, like, begging for his life,” Spencer testified. “He pleaded, ‘Don’t do this.’” Her voice wavered as she testified, and someone in the court audience began to sob.
She heard two more shots and saw muzzle flashes.
Between the shots, Spencer heard Nguyen say, “Give me the gun.” But Wright didn’t hand it over.
The women helped Jackson, who had been knocked down, get back into the car. He had lost a tooth, and his eyes were swollen.
Later, Spencer testified, Wright told her “to get it out of my head.”
She said she had initially told investigators that Nguyen, not Wright, shot Turner. Later, she changed her story.
In other testimony Tuesday, sheriff’s Detective Jon Gill said that in May, while Nguyen was being held in jail in the killing, she sent a message to detectives that she wanted to tell the truth about what happened. Gill said Nguyen told investigators that after she drove to the field, Turner asked if it was a setup. She turned off the car and heard snickering from the back seat.
Nguyen told detectives that Wright shot Turner, who initially fell to the ground, that Wright stood over him and Turner begged for his life, that she heard Wright tell him to get up and go into the field.
She heard Turner scream.
Later, according to Nguyen, Wright changed his clothes and burned a shirt that Turner had left in the car, Gill testified.