Wichita police recorded two homicides in the first week of 2013, and a jury learned Wednesday that it would hear evidence from both cases this week in a Sedgwick County courtroom.
“This defendant was smack dab in the middle of both of those homicides,” prosecutor Trinity Muth said in his opening statement in the double-murder trial of Shawn Brown.
Brown, 21, and two of his brothers were allegedly involved in the Jan. 2, 2013, shooting death of Shawn Rhone after Rhone was lured to a vacant house in the 1700 block of Northeast Parkway to sell marijuana, Muth said.
Testimony will also show that Adji Tampone, who was found shot to death in his home on Jan. 3, 2013, owed money to Brown for crack cocaine, Muth said.
“The evidence is going to show you that this defendant had a motive to kill,” Muth said. “He had the gun to kill ... and he said he was going to kill if he didn’t get paid.”
Brown’s brother Jerone Brown, 20, was convicted last week of two counts of first-degree murder in the killings. A third brother, Milo Brown, 22, was sentenced this month to life in prison for his role in Rhone’s murder. Milo Brown was not charged with taking part in Tampone’s killing.
Muth said detectives connected the two homicides while examining the cellphone that the Browns used to lure Rhone to Northeast Parkway. He said the contacts in that phone included the number of a cellphone that was taken from Tampone’s house after he was killed.
Muth also said the Brown brothers drove to the scene of the Rhone homicide in a 2003 Cadillac DeVille that was taken from Tampone’s house.
Defense lawyer Mike Brown said he would make his opening statement after prosecutors have finished presenting their evidence.
Aside from the defendants, the jury learned of at least one other person who had a connection to both homicides.
Dennis Haynes, the state’s first witness, said Tampone “was like a little brother to me.” Haynes said he met Rhone in prison, though he knew him only by the nickname “Red.” Prison records show that Haynes and Rhone were in prison in the mid-1990s on drug charges.
Haynes said he was standing at the counter of the Quik Trip at 13th and Oliver on the night of Jan. 2, 2013, when a woman came in and said someone had been shot. When he walked outside, he said, he realized it was Rhone. He said he told Rhone, “Hey, what’s happening,” but left without getting an answer when he realized a police officer had arrived at the scene. Police said Rhone drove to the Quik Trip seeking help after being shot during an attempted robbery.
After a night at the Kansas Star Casino in Mulvane, Haynes said, he stopped by Tampone’s house early on the morning of Jan. 3. He said he went in the house through an unlocked back door and found Tampone slumped in a chair.
“I noticed he wasn’t moving,” he said. “Then I noticed he was dead.”
Crime scene investigator Carla Patton told the jury she could see the body from outside the home.
“At first glance, it looked like it could be a possible drug overdose,” she said.
After going inside, she said, she found a ballcap with a hole in it. She said someone from the medical examiner’s office noticed the gunshot wound to the back of Tampone’s head.
She said both doors on Tampone’s refrigerator were open, and she said the food in the freezer was warm.
Deputy medical examiner Timothy Gorrill, who performed the autopsy, said he recovered a bullet near the front of Tampone’s brain.
Gorrill said he couldn’t tell how long Tampone lived after being shot, but he said a person who sustains a gunshot wound to that part of the brain can live for a few hours if there are no other external factors contributing to the death.