Three people had the desire and opportunity to kill former South High football player Jordan Turner, but it was Eric Jackson who had the gun when the group stopped on a remote dirt road southeast of Wichita, a Sedgwick County jury was told Tuesday.
Jackson, 22, told the jury that he and his two co-defendants – Ebony Nguyen and Kristofer Wright – were all in agreement that Turner deserved to die because of the way he had ripped Nguyen off a few months earlier in a $300 marijuana deal.
As the group drove around in the early morning hours of March 31, 2013, Jackson said, Wright carried a 9mm handgun in his shorts pocket. When they stopped at Harrison Park, he said, Nguyen asked for the gun so she could shoot Turner. As they drove toward the dirt road near Pawnee and 127th Street East, Jackson said, he decided that he would be the one to do it.
“Did you decide on the way there that you were going to man up and do the deed yourself?” prosecutor Jennifer Amyx asked.
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“Yes ma’am,” said Jackson, who was testifying for the state in Wright’s first-degree murder trial. Jackson and Nguyen are also charged in the case.
Several witnesses at the trial said the three defendants were among a group of five young adults who spent much of the night of March 30, 2013, at Doc Howard’s, the last night the popular Old Town bar would be open.
All five were in the four-door Nissan Sentra when it stopped on a remote dirt road around 3 a.m. the next morning. Four of the people drove off, leaving Turner, 19, mortally wounded in a field covered with cotton stubble. Emma Spencer, the only witness to the shooting who was not charged, was among the witnesses who testified Tuesday.
Spencer said the dispute between Nguyen and Turner escalated through the night after Nguyen realized that Turner had been the person who cheated her out of an ounce of marijuana several months earlier. Prosecutors said Turner paid for the marijuana with counterfeit money.
Spencer said she didn’t know what to expect when Nguyen pulled over on 127th Street East, just south of Pawnee, and turned off the headlights.
She said Turner asked Nguyen, “ ‘Is this a set-up?’ ” She said Nguyen replied, “ ‘Why, are you getting scared?’ ”
Spencer said everyone but her got out of the car.
Jackson told the jury that he was carrying Wright’s gun behind his back when approached Turner, who at 6-foot-4 and 300 pounds was more than twice his size. Jackson said he pointed the gun at Turner, and that Turner told him he wasn’t going to shoot him. The two had been friends since meeting at South High six years earlier, Jackson said.
“Did you shoot him?” Amyx asked.
“No, ma’am,” Jackson said.
“Why didn’t you shoot him?”
“I had change of heart.”
“Was it harder to do than you thought it would be?”
Jackson said he turned his head for a second and Turner punched him in the face, then picked him up and slammed his head into the ground. Jackson said he didn’t regain consciousness until the next day.
Spencer said that seconds after Jackson was knocked out, she heard two gunshots. She said she saw Turner running into the field holding his left shoulder and Wright holding the gun. She said Nguyen asked for the gun, but Wright didn’t respond.
“He continued to chase Jordan into the field, and told him to get on his knees,” Spencer testified. “After that, I heard two more gunshots.”
It would be a month before Turner’s body was found. Spencer said she never told authorities about what had happened.
“I was just trying to be loyal to my boyfriend,” she said, referring to Wright. “The last thing on my mind was going to police.”
Jackson said he didn’t realize that Turner had been shot. He said he asked Wright the day after the shooting what had happened to Turner. Wright, who was Jackson’s roommate at the time, said Turner had run away, Jackson said.
Jackson said he also asked Nguyen, whom he had been dating at the time, what had happened to Turner.
“She said don’t worry about it. It’s been taken care of,” Jackson testified.
Jackson said his relationship with Nguyen ended shortly after that.
“Why did she break up with you?” Amyx asked.
“Because I didn’t have the courage to do what she wanted me to,” Jackson said.
“Is it fair to say it was because you weren’t man enough to kill Jordan?”
“Yes, ma’am,” Jackson said.
The trial continues Wednesday in the courtroom of District Judge Joseph Bribiesca.