The prosecution rested Wednesday after only six witnesses in the murder trial of Michael Johnson in McDuffie County Superior Court in Thomson.
Defense testimony immediately began after lunch with six more witnesses taking the stand in the courtroom presided over by Toombs Judicial Circuit Superior Court Chief Judge Roger W. Dunaway Jr. The trial is to resume at 9 a.m. Thursday with additional defense witnesses expected to testify. It is not known, however, whether or not Mr. Johnson will testify on his own behalf.
Mr. Johnson is accused of malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault and possession of a firearm during the commission of certain crimes. The charges were filed against him several months ago by a grand jury in connection with the shooting death of 36-year-old Todd Brooks inside the mobile home of Mr. Johnson off the Wrens Highway near Thomson on Nov. 22, 2006.
Things were "crazy" on that night in question, remembered Teddy Grimes as he testified for the prosecution with some of the details leading up to the shooting of Mr. Brooks, whom he likened to a brother.
The North Augusta, S.C. man, who formerly lived in McDuffie County for seven years, said he and his wife were planning to spend Thanksgiving with their friends, Todd and Missy Brooks, who lived about a mile from where the shooting occurred. Their plans dramatically changed, however, the night before.
It all began with Mrs. Brooks hitting a deer that caused more than $3,400 worth of damages to her car. The accident took place near the driveway that leads to Mr. Johnson's dwelling.
When Mr. Grimes heard about the accident and that the deer was thought to have been a buck with a big rack, he drove down in his truck looking for it. He never found it, so he then drove to a shop nearby where Mr. Brooks was frying a turkey. Mr. Brooks wanted to see the damages to the car before going to look for the deer with his friend.
They later drove up in the driveway of Mr. Johnson's home where they got out of Mr. Grimes' pickup truck with Mr. Brooks proceeding to knock on the door and get permission to look for the deer. Mr. Johnson and a friend Roger Lee Sturkey were inside the home, along with 17-year-old Rebecca Heacock.
Mr. Johnson, now 29, invited Mr. Brooks and Mr. Grimes inside. At the time, Mr. Johnson agreed that he would help them look for the deer. Testimony revealed that he went back and changed into his boots and grabbed a high-powered rifle - supposedly thinking he might need it in the event the deer wasn't dead.
During testimony from Mr. Grimes and under questioning by as District Attorney Dennis C. Sanders prior to the state resting its case, Mr. Grimes said Miss Heacock appeared from another room and that his friend asked her '"Baby, what are you doing here? You don't belong here. Come give me a hug."'
Mr. Brooks and his family had a close relationship with Miss Heacock and her family because they used across the street from one another. His nickname for the girl was "Baby."
The teenager, now 18, agreed to ride in Mr. Grimes' truck and sat in the lap of Mr. Brooks while riding around looking for the deer. As they rode, Mr. Grimes said Mr. Brooks told her that he wanted to take her to his house for Thanksgiving, adding, "I could sense she didn't want to go."
Mr. Grimes said he figured too that Mr. Johnson didn't want her to go. Finally, Miss Heacock agreed to go, but indicated she needed to stop at the mobile home to retrieve personal items. Once there, she and Mr. Brooks went inside. Mr. Grimes waited in his truck.
It was at that point that the night turned tragic just after Mr. Brooks yelled for Mr. Grimes. For Mr. Brooks and Mr. Johnson had gotten into a tussle over the rifle following verbal comments concerning Miss Heacock.
"The last thing I heard Todd say was get the gun," testified Mr. Grimes, noting that he became involved in an attempt to retrieve the weapon and that after a while, he broke free with it.
Following that encounter, Mr. Brooks and Mr. Johnson began fighting - with gunfire ringing out before the altercation ended. Mr. Brooks was shot six times with an RG .38-caliber revolver, of which later was recovered on the kitchen floor by Deputy Al Reeves of the McDuffie County Sheriff's Department.
Dr. Daniel Kenneth Brown, medical examiner with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Crime Lab in Augusta, testified that the autopsy he performed on Mr. Brooks revealed that the cause of death was from multiple gunshot wounds.
Later in the day, defense attorney Jacque Hawk began presenting defense testimony from seven witnesses. They included: Shamain Grimes, wife of Teddy Grimes, who was a witness for the prosecution, GBI Special Agent David Leonard, Miss Heacock, Jill Lariscy, a forensic toxicologist with the GBI Crime Lab in Augusta, Roger Sturkey, Debra Heacock and Melinda Williams.
Mrs. Williams, the older sister of Mr. Johnson, testified that her father, Floyd Johnson, telephoned her at her house on Nov. 22, 2006 and said someone had been shot at Michael's house.
She said she called for help from 911 dispatchers, while driving to her brother's house.
"I went down to see if I could be of any help," Mrs. Williams said.
After finding Mr. Brooks lying on the floor in a back bedroom, she dialed dispatchers back explaining the situation. Dispatchers told her to get a cloth and apply pressure to the wounds on Mr. Brooks. Mrs. Williams said she grabbed a towel, and applied pressure in an attempt to keep down the bleeding from the gunshots that Mr. Brooks had suffered.
Mrs. Williams said she tried to talk to Mr. Brooks. At that time, he still was alive, "alert and shaking his head," she testified.