Guilty verdict delivered in Leeshawn Rodgers murder trial

The jury deliberate for about 90 minutes Wednesday after hearing testimony connected to the death of Eddie Johnson. Johnson died on April 30 of multiple gunshot wounds.

Posted on Feb. 19, 2014 at 2:53 p.m.

GOSHEN — Leeshawn Rodgers, accused of killing Eddie Johnson in April 2013, was found guilty of murder after a three-day jury trial Wednesday, Feb. 19.

Prosecuting and defense attorneys rested their cases Wednesday morning and closing statements were done by 11:30 a.m.

Rodgers, 20, was accused of fatally shooting Johnson, 34, the afternoon of April 30 at Sixth Street and Cleveland Avenue. 

During the third day of the trial, the jury heard testimony from Blair Chrenka, a pathologist, as well as Julie Horton, a DNA expert.

Chrenka worked Johnson's autopsy, and found that Johnson was shot three times, he said. One of the bullets entered Johnson's chest and went through his heart. Another bullet went through Johnson's lower abdomen's left side, leaving a bump on Johnson's lower back. 

Horton, who works for the Indiana State Police Laboratory, examined the DNA collected from an oral swab taken from Rodgers and matched it with DNA found in a baseball hat that was collected at the scene. 

Defense attorneys brought Cpl. Brandon Roundtree and Detective Jeff Eaton to testify after prosecution rested its case. 

Roundtree told the jury that sometime after the shooting he received a call from his sister, who told him Rodgers wanted to speak with him. 

Roundtree took a call from Rodgers, and told him the police was looking for him and that he should turn himself in. He didn't hear from Rodgers until later, when Rodgers was arrested. 

During closing statements, prosecuting attorney Peter Britton walked the jury one last time through the incident, from the moment Johnson arrived at the house at Sixth and Cleveland.

On a warm, spring day, Johnson drove his Jeep to his friends' house. The plan was to go for a ride in the nice weather. Johnson left to get gas while his friend, Quintara Wiley, got ready to go out. 

After Wiley got ready, Johnson got out of the house, where he was met by Rodgers. Johnson put an arm around Rodgers' and walked around the corner of the house. 

Freddie Johnson, a witness who testified Tuesday, said he saw the two men struggle, heard shots and saw Johnson fall to the sidewalk. 

"With one cold, calculating act, Mr. Rodgers has guaranteed [Johnson] will never get to experience another spring — the warmth on his face and the companionship of his friends," Britton said. 

Matthew Johnson, Rodgers' defense attorney, told the jury to consider all the evidence and the people who testified carefully before coming up with a verdict. Johnson told the jury to look at some inconsistencies presented in the case.

"Freddie Johnson talked about this neighborhood — the fear associated with it. Fear is, I think, what this case is about," Matthew Johnson said. 

The jury took about 90 minutes to deliberate. 

Rodgers' sentencing hearing has been scheduled for March 13 at Elkhart Circuit Court. He faces a sentence of up to 65 years in prison. 

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