LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - The capital murder trial of Rakeem Rhodes began on Monday, and it included testimony from an alleged eye witness to the murder.
Rhodes is charged with capital murder in connection to the June 12, 2013 shooting of 60-year-old Albert Hodge. Rhodes and a juvenile were later arrested for the crime. Rhodes has been in the Angelina County Jail since June 23, 2013.
Rhodes is the longest serving inmate currently in the jail.
In her opening statement, prosecutor April Perez said there was two people involved, and they learned that Hodge had just came upon a large sum of money. Perez also told the jury that they are going to hear from several people that they know Rhodes and they know he did it.
Rhodes' attorney John Tunnel told the jury that they are not going to hear any scientific evidence that links the crime to his client.
"You are going to hear from people who are trying not to show their involvement in the case or from people who are in trouble and are looking for a good deal," Tunnel said.
The first witness was Lufkin Police Sgt. Nick Malone. Malone said when he was at the scene he talked to one person on scene that wanted to give information. Malone said he interviewed the man and then went to CHI hospital to see Hodge.
The Lufkin PD sergeant said Hodge died while he was at the hospital.
Malone said he along with Sgt. Steven Abbott went back to the crime scene the next morning and found a shell casing in Hodge's yard.
Henry White then told the prosecution that he had just got home from washing his car the night of the incident when he heard gun shots and then saw a short male running out of the woods.
White said before he got home, he saw a short male and a tall man standing at the street corner.
"I ran up to Hodge's house and saw a taller man there with Hodge, and he was telling him to give him the money."
White said Hodge tried to fight back, and he was shot multiple times. He also said Rhodes tried to get into Hodge's vehicle but could not get it started.
"I hit that porch swing, and I guess it scared him, and he got out of the car, and he came after me, so I took off running through the bushes," White said.
White said the short man ran off early.
"It was from the first gunshot I heard that he was out of there," White said. "The last shot I heard was when Hodge hit the floor."
White told Perez that he never saw the two men's faces that night.
Julian Parks then told Perez what he saw. He said he was coming home from work down Weaver and saw two black men on Weaver, and they had on hoodies.
Parks said it did seem unusual since it was June. Parks said when he got home he was drinking in his car in his driveway, and he heard a bump on his car. At that point, he got out and saw the two individuals.
"I told them it is not good to walk through that trail late at night because my grandfather has a gun, and he is losing his mind, so he might come out and shoot," Parks said. "They kept walking, and then a short time later, I heard gun shots."
Parks said he heard several gunshots but not real close to each other.
"It has been three years ago but as I remember it, it was not like, 'pow,pow,pow,pow,pow,'" Parks said. "It was more like, 'boom,boom … boom, boom … boom, boom.'"
Parks said he had heard rumors that Hodge just came up with a lot of money.
"I'm not family, so I don't know his business, but word on the streets was that he had," Parks said. "You saw him in this new car, but it was like a classic look, and it caught my eye."
Parks said he did talk to detectives about the shooting, but he could not remember everything he told them due to how long ago it was.
Parks said he was presented a photo lineup of suspects by police. Parks said that the first photograph was really close to what he remembered.
"I don't know if this is wrong or not, but the other photos were of guys I knew in Lufkin, and I know if they were standing there that night, then I could have positively identified them," Parks said.
Parks told Tunnel that he knew three of the five photographs, so there could have only been two choices.
Bridget Moore then told Perez that she was at her grandmother's house on the night of June 12, 2013.
Moore said she was at her grandmother's house with a lot of family that had just got done with Vacation Bible School when they heard the gunshots. Moore said at first she saw a male running down the street, and he put the hood of his hoodie on when they asked who he was. Moore said she then saw her cousin running.
"He came running and said, 'Someone call 911. Someone just shot Mr. Hodge,''" Moor said. "We heard about five or six shots."
Moore said she did not personally know him but knew who he was. Moore said she just heard that he had received some benefits from the service and that he had just bought a new red car.
Moore told Tunnel that she heard the shots around 11:30 at night.
Dacourtney Deason started off the afternoon testimony. Deason said he was at his cousin's house on June 12 and was walking home when he saw someone come running out of the woods.
Deason said he had seen the person before and had played basketball with him.
"His name was Rakeem," Deason said.
Deason said he went back in the house he was at because he saw someone in all black, and it scared him.
During his testimony, Deason told Tunnel that he did not see anything red on Rhodes and did not seem him again that night. Deason said he wasn't real close to him but enough that he could identify someone.
Laderika Daniels then told Perez that she was at her grandmother's house with Moore. Daniels was in the yard with Moore when she heard the shots, and she went to get her kids in the house and then called 911. In the 911 tape, Daniels can be heard describing the first person running and then you can hear Daniels saying someone else ran through the yard.
The young man who was a juvenile allegedly involved then took the stand to describe what happened that night. He said he met with Rhodes to get high that night.
The witness said he was wearing shorts and a hoodie. He said they would walk a trail that would go between Cain and Weaver. He said they were stopped by Parks at one point, who told them not to walk through that area because his grandfather had a gun. He continued and said that they went to a house at 701 Weaver.
"Rhodes told me to wait on him while he go get the weed," he said. "I waited until I saw him take a shot."
He said that Rhodes knocked on the door and then he heard the first shot, so he started to run. He said he did not know if he had a gun. He said he ran off and got a change of clothes and called his dad to come get him.
"I just rode in the car with my head down," he said. "I just thought about what would happen next."
The young man said he went home and went to sleep, and then two days later, was interviewed by detectives. He told them they were going out to get some weed and that Rakeem had shot Mr. Hodge.
"I called him the next day to see if it was real what happened and if he did what he did," he said. "He told me that he killed him."
The witness then said that Rakeem sounded remorseful. He told Perez he heard about five more shots after he left and he never looked back. He said his dad did not know what happened until he was with him during the police interviews.
According to his testimony, the first person he told was a "girl he was messing with."
"I told her I was traumatized," he said. "I told her I saw a body."
He told Perez the body he saw was Hodge when he was first shot. He then went back to when they got to the house. He said Rhodes knocked twice and then waiting for about a minute before the door opened He couldn't recall how long he was waiting as a look out for Rhodes.
"I can't recall," he said. "It wasn't long, but it wasn't short."
The witness then told Tunnel that he did have other cases against him in the court but did not testify here for any deal. He said he had no clue that Rhodes would do anything, and he just thought he was going to buy weed.
He admitted he didn't do anything wrong but wanted to change clothes at a friend's house first because people had seen him with what he had on.
The witness said he first told police that it was gang-related and that he was part of the Savages but he later changed that statement and admitted he was scared at the time. However, he admitted to still being in the Savages.
Tunnel asked him if he ever said he wanted a better offer to Reeves when they met about his case. He agreed that he got deferred adjudication.
"It worked out good for you," Tunnel said.
"I mean I sat in county jail for 18 months," the witness said.
The witness then told Perez he agreed to take the stand because he wanted to clear his name and make sure people didn't think he did something.
Tanya Pate, a friend of Hodge who was in the house at the time he as killed, then took the stand.
"We heard someone knock, and Hodge said, 'Who is it?' and we heard some mumbling," Pate said. "It happened again, and Hodge told me to go in the kitchen, and he grabbed a stick. I couldn't see much but I heard the person say, 'I know you have my money.' I then saw a red dot on his chest and I heard a shot."
"I seen someone bend over and say he should have listened the first time and gave him six more shots," Pate said. "I went back, and I hid between the stove and the bookshelf."
Pate said she heard the car start to crank, but it wouldn't start because it was an electric start and the key wasn't in it or near it. Pate said she would come out and look at Hodge who would smile and then lay back down.
Misty McKelvy took the stand and talked about her run in with the juvenile. Mckelvy said she is friends with his father.
"He came running in and said he needed to change his clothes and changed," Mckelvy said.
She said he did not tell her about the shooting at Hodge's house, and she called his dad to come get him. She admitted she later told police that his story seemed odd.