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Eyewitnesses tell of shooting

Jurors heard the details Tuesday of the last hour of Franklin "Duck" Stotts' life, though they didn't hear much about the man on trial over Stotts' death. Today will be the second day of testimony in the murder trial of Robert Lee Shorter. None of the eyewitnesses to the robbery and shooting identified Shorter, since the two robbers had their faces covered.
Justin Leighty
Posted on April 25, 2007 at 1:00 a.m. | Updated on April 25, 2007 at 6:18 p.m.

GOSHEN -- Jurors heard the details Tuesday of the last hour of Franklin "Duck" Stotts' life, though they didn't hear much about the man on trial over Stotts' death.

Today will be the second day of testimony in the murder trial of Robert Lee Shorter.

None of the eyewitnesses to the robbery and shooting identified Shorter, since the two robbers had their faces covered.

Authorities, though, believe Jamar Lewis fired the shots that killed Stotts while Shorter stood by with a shotgun.

Stotts, 32, lay on the couch with his sleeping 2-year-old daughter in their apartment at 1200 Midtown Court in Elkhart the night of April 20, 2005, jurors heard.

His girlfriend, Michelle Gates, was in the back bedroom.

"I heard a loud noise. And then I heard people screaming, 'Lay down, lay down!' I heard Duck screaming, 'Not in front of my kids, my kids are here,'" Gates testified. She and her other two children started screaming, too. The 2-year-old ran back to the bedroom.

Stotts ran out of the apartment and the pistol-toting gunman pursued him, said Gates' father, Mangle Causey. Causey and his wife went upstairs after they heard noises in their daughter's apartment and the men ran past Causey, he testified.

Causey said he began to run after the men in an attempt to help Stotts, but then realized he'd spotted another man in the apartment with his daughter and grandchildren, so he paused.

He saw the pursuer fire a shot, then heard two more.

When Gates walked to the front of the apartment, her boyfriend and one gunman were gone, but "I seen a guy standing with a shotgun and he had on a navy blue and gray sweatsuit and he told me to lay down," she said.

"I started screaming, 'My kids!'" The man left and she went downstairs, where she found Stotts lying on the ground, bleeding. She went back inside to her parents' apartment, where they'd already retreated, to call police.

Elkhart officer Mark DeJong arrived and tended to Stotts.

"He was rasping, he was gasping for air like he'd been punched in the chest," DeJong said. "The first thing that he was telling me was he wanted the paramedics."

DeJong said Stotts told a nearby woman, "You know who shot me."

Paramedics took Stotts to the hospital, where he died.

The potential motive for the robbery became clear Tuesday. Gates freely admitted her boyfriend was a known drug dealer. He mostly dealt in marijuana, but also sold some crack cocaine, she testified.

About a week before the slaying, she got home at the same time Stotts did. Three men accompanied him -- her cousin Demarco Taylor, André Shepard and Shorter, Gates testified.

They found the door kicked in, and Stotts rushed to the bedroom to see what had been stolen, Gates said. He walked back up with a large wad of cash.

He told Gates, Taylor, Shepard and Shorter that the burglars "skipped right over $10,000," Gates testified.

Prosecutors will continue their case today and plan to link Shorter to both guns used in the shooting and to present incriminating statements, according to Deputy Prosecutor David Francisco's opening argument.



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