TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Prosecution and defense attorneys concluded their opening statements just before 12:30, painting two very different accounts of the night 40-year-old Natalie Gibson was killed.
Prosecutor Chris Biggs, assistant district attorney for Shawnee County, described two very different groups out for a night on the town on the evening of July 20, 2011.
Natalie Gibson and her partner Lori Allison, 41 at the time, were out to celebrate Gibson's 40th birthday.
Meanwhile an a more sinister night on the town was planned not far away, by a group of armed individuals that, Biggs said, included the defendant Anceo Stovall.
The group had wanted to "hit a lick," slang for robbing a home, at Gibson's and Allison's home.
The two groups collided in the early morning hours of July 21, when Gibson and Allison returned to their home on Quinton Avenue - a confrontation that ended in the shooting death of Gibson and wounded Allison.
Biggs said jurors will hear evidence that Stovall shot Gibson in the heart.
"Lori observed Natalie's face when she was shot," he told the jury, before Lori Allison was shot at herself. The .45-caliber used to kill Gibson was never found.
Biggs showed jurors several charts, including one that showed the relationships between the nine defendants who were charged in Gibson's murder. Four of nine defendants, Bayata Covington, Duane Richey, Frednetta Wilson and Kevin Wilkins will testify against Stovall, he said.
Biggs also provided jurors with several backstories of a string of crimes committed last summer, including the shooting of an Akita dog in the 2800-block of SW Plass -
Stovall is charged with animal cruelty in that incident.
In his opening statements, Stovall's defense attorney, Jonathan Phelps, painted a picture of a hardworking Stovall, holding two jobs. He put into question his client's alleged close relationship to the other defendants described by Biggs.
Phelps said the prosecution's witnesses have a lot to gain by cooperating and told jurors to exercise caution. "Cooperating witnesses have a great deal of motivation to not be truthful," he said. He described co-defendant Bayate Covington's testimonies given to law enforcement as wildly inconsistent, motivated by revenge and by getting himself a "sweat deal."
His client, Phelps said, had never heard about the Akita dog shooting, and never heard about the Gibson murder until law enforcement brought it up to him. He wasn't there at the murder scene and these things [described by others] are not true, he said.
Phelps asked the jury to hear the coming testimonies with caution and to acquit his client.
The trial started with a delay of almost two hours in the morning when one male juror was excused from the panel for an unknown reason. Judge Evelyn Wilson and attorneys on both sides eventually replaced him with a female juror. The panel now consists of ten women and five men, including 3 alternate jurors.