A dispute that led to the shooting death of former South High football player Jordan Turner started when one of three defendants in the case accused Turner of buying an ounce of marijuana from her with counterfeit money, a defense lawyer told a Sedgwick County jury Monday.
The lawyer, Steve Mank, said Turner was later shot by a friend of Ebony Nguyen, 21, after she recognized Turner as the one who had cheated her in the marijuana deal.
Mank’s comments came at the outset of the first-degree murder trial of Kristofer JaQuinton Wright, 21, who is charged with shooting Turner in a field southeast of Pawnee and 127th Street East on the morning of March 31, 2013.
Turner’s body was found May 1, and prosecutor Jennifer Amyx told the jury in her opening statement that Wright and three other people who were at the scene of the shooting made no attempt to contact police during the month that Turner’s body lay in the field.
Amyx said that on the night before Turner was killed, he and four other people were smoking marijuana and drinking in Doc Howard’s club. At some point during the night, Amyx said, Nguyen realized that Turner was the one who had cheated her out of the marijuana. After leaving Old Town, Amyx said, the group drove to Harrison Park near Webb Road and Harry, where Nguyen and Wright talked privately about what should be done.
“It’s decided in that conversation that they’re going to take care of Jordan Turner permanently,” she said.
Amyx said the group then drove to the field where Turner was shot with a gun that Wright carried in a pocket of a pair of shorts that he wore under his jeans.
Mank said in his opening statement that much of what Amyx said was true, but he said it was another defendant, Eric Jackson, 22, who fired the shots that killed Turner.
The first witness was Turner’s father, Frank Turner, who said his son was a promising football player who at 6-foot-4 and 305 pounds had a chance at a professional football career.
Mank, however, tried to portray Turner in a less favorable light. Frank Turner admitted under cross-examination that his son had failed to stand out while playing football at Arizona Western and Coffeyville community colleges. He also admitted that his son spent 40 days in jail in January and February 2013 for a parole violation on burglary and theft convictions.
Much of the rest of the testimony on Monday was used to set the scene for the jury.
Patrick Engels, who farms the land southeast of Pawnee and 127th East, said there was cotton stubble in the field on April 30 as he sprayed it with herbicide. He said he was heading in for the night when the tip of a 64-foot boom went over what he thought was some debris that had blown into the field. The next morning, in the daylight, he said, the debris looked like a torso.
“I didn’t ever stop,” he said. “I just called 911.”
Sheriff’s Deputy Alan Bennett was the first officer at the scene.
“I saw no tire tracks, no footprints,” he said. “It had obviously been there a while.”
Lab investigator Toie Brunow told the jury that Turner’s body was about 200 feet east of 127th Street East, a dirt road. She said two 9mm shell casings were found a few feet away. A white cellphone was found in his pocket, she said, but he had no wallet or other form of identification.
Detective Lori Werlein said a CrimeStoppers tip that came in that night gave investigators a rough outline of what happened and rough versions of the names of three of the four people who were at the scene.
It turned out that all four had Facebook pages, Werlein said. She said Wright’s Facebook page listed a phone number that turned out to be the last number that was called with Turner’s cellphone.
Testimony at the trial was scheduled to begin last week, but was delayed after Wright was hurt in a jailhouse fight after court on Tuesday. Wright still showed signs of those injuries on Monday – his right eye was swollen and he complained of a sore back – but Mank said his client was ready to proceed with the trial.
The trial is being held in the courtroom of District Judge Joseph Bribiesca.