LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - The second day of the capital murder trial for Rakeem Rhodes began with testimony from key law enforcement officers who first arrived at the crime scene the night of the alleged murder of Albert Hodge.
Rhodes, who has been booked in the Angelina County Jail longer than any other inmate at this time, is charged with capital murder in connection with the shooting death of 60-year-old Hodge. Rhodes and an individual who was a juvenile at the time were later arrested for the crime.
The first law enforcement officer to testify on day two of the murder trial was Cody Jackson, a patrol officer with Lufkin Police Department who was one of the first to arrive on the scene of the crime.
"I responded to a call of shots fired, and another officer working at the time advised there was a victim suffering multiple gunshots wounds," Jackson said. "I saw a man identified as Albert Hodge's who appeared to be injured. He was bleeding from multiple places."
The state asked if there was anyone else in the residence to which he answered yes. There was someone by the name of Tonya Pate who was identified as being hysterical when law enforcement arrived on the scene.
"When I arrived, he was propped against a couch not far from the front door," Johnson said. "He was bleeding, as I said before, from multiple places on his body. EMS arrived on scene and assessed the body before transporting him to the hospital."
The jury was shown multiple photographs from the night of the shooting. Multiple family members removed themselves from the courtroom while the jury was shown photographs of the victim from the night of the shooting.
Jackson explained that upon arrival, they noticed a red Cadillac car that appeared to be running with temporary tags on the license plate, indicating it was a new vehicle.
"We brought the car back to one of our buildings in order to keep it for evidence," Jackson said. "When it is left in possession of the police department this ensures it is kept secure and not tampered with."
Jackson said that the following night he was called to the residence, 705 Wilson Avenue, making contact with a subject and collected evidence related to the events from the previous night.
"I retrieved clothing from the residence, a black sweatshirt, to be sent back to station," Jackson said. "We photograph, and then place it officially into evidence."
Lance Standridge, a detective with LPD arrived after first responders and EMS had already removed the body of Albert Hodge was next to take the stand. He explained what he witnessed upon arriving on the crime scene.
"There was a piece of pipe laying on the couch right when you walked in. I noticed that immediately," Standridge said. "There was blood covering the floor, what appeared to be a knife blade as well, and it appeared that there was some pieces of broken debris on the floor."
April Perez, one of the prosecutors on the case, asked if there was anything in particular detectives look for upon arriving to a crime scene.
"Shell casings are definitely something we look for, anything that have value to the case, and we log everything with a number so nothing gets confused or forgotten," Standridge said.
He explained that the different evidence was marked, logged, and assessed individually due to the nature of the crime. However, after the crime scene was investigated, they did not have a lead for a suspect until someone contacted the police department the following day after the crime.
"Misty McKelvey contacted police and advised that she had evidence that she wanted to put into the hands of law enforcement and information from a person she thought was present at the previous night's events," Standridge said.
The person identified as the minor at the time of the incident, told McKelvey he was with Rhodes when something occurred. During the time police interviewed McKelvey, she said that the minor arrived at her house and she gave him a change of clothes.
Strandridge was at the autopsy in Beaumont, TX during the time McKelvey was interviewed at the Lufkin Police department, and said that she told the officers taking statements that the minor who came to her house following the incident had placed Rhodes at the scene of the crime.
"It changed the entire nature of the crime because prior to McKelvey. we didn't really have a suspect but after they were interviewed, it was apparent we had a lead, and they provided a phone number for us to contact," Standridge said.
These contacts lead to the arrest of Rhodes several days later in Nacogdoches County by U.S. marshals. Following the arrest, Rhodes was recorded in an interview and was questioned about his alleged participation in the events that took place on June 12th, 2013.
"I heard that this dude Peewee said that I did everything. I don't know him very well. I definitely don't know him like that," Rhodes said in the interrogation interview played for the jury. "I was playing basketball at Jones Park that night. I rode my bike there, but I wasn't there at all."
They asked if anyone else would be able to confirm he was at Jones Park, which is located roughly two miles away from the scene of the homicide, but he was unable to name a specific person that would testify to this.
"I left around 7:30 p.m. My mom came and picked up, I went to Center after that, and then I went and got my hair cut," Rhodes said.
He said that someone called him on the 13th, later identified as the minor present at the time of crime, and told him that the police were investigating the crime, and his name was identified.
"He told me they questioned him, and that my name came up, and I said, 'How did my name come up?'" Rhodes said. "He said police showed up to his house and said that they had his phone and were questioning him about that night."
The interrogation taken after Rhodes was arrested continued with the officers interviewing Rhodes explaining that multiple witnesses placed him at the scene of the crime. They told him they had specific details of what he was wearing that night and that the question wasn't if he was there but what was his exact involvement in the crime.
"I was not there," Rhodes said. "I don't know what to tell you because I wasn't there. I don't know why my name came up."
This is when police explained that after interviewing others connected to the crime that they had enough evidence to believe he was connected to the events that took place that night.
"We have eyewitness testimony putting you on the scene. We have someone that is saying you planned the entire event, and he was just a guy that was with you at the time of the crime," Standridge said.
"I wasn't there. I don't understand how someone knew what I was wearing because I wasn't there," Rhodes said.
The final question in the interview was Standridge asking what happened when Rhodes arrived at the house that night.
"I don't know. I wasn't there, and I would like to go back to my cell now," Rhodes said.
Following the interview he was transported back to the Angelina County Jail where Standridge said he did not interview him again.
Dr. John Ralston who works as a forensic pathologist in the facility that completed the autopsy on the victim, took the stand to explain his findings.
"He did have evidence of medical intervention upon examination, and some old scars," Ralston said. "There was a gunshot wound that went through his mouth and went out his cheek, there was another that went through the abdomen causing bleeding, one through the kidney, additionally a gun shot wound to left leg, one to the back thigh, and a graze on his left glut muscle."
Perez asked the autopsy examiner to confirm that the first wound made was in fact the gunshot to the face above the left eye. He explained that determining from the track of the wound it was a downward left to right wound that exited the victim's cheek.
"It fractured the cheek bone. I cant say if it would be a debilitating wound but definitely one that would have caused him to lose his eye sight," Ralston said.
He explained the second gunshot wound to the abdomen exited along the lower back. There was no soot, so it was not close range shot, but this shot did pierce the kidney and is said to be fatal.
"There was another that entered the left side of the left thigh and went through the muscle of the victim," Ralston said. "This was across the top of the left thigh and went through the muscles."
The cause of death was ruled as multiple gunshot wounds and a homicide. Ralston did explain that Hodge's medical examination showed he was at a higher risk for a heart attack.
In cross-examination, the defense asked about the toxicology report where drugs were found to be present in his system.
Christy Pate, Lufkin police department's crime scene technician, was the next expert witness to take the stand to explain her role in examining and collecting the evidence from the night of the crime.
"We photograph first as it is, and then we will mark anything we find as evidence and document before we package the evidence to be sent off to labs for testing," Pate said.
Pate said that she retrieved 6 shell casings, and a spent bullet located in the living room from the scene of the crime on June 12 to 13th. She explained that she brought to court as evidence a gun, casings, bullets, a long pipe, knife blade, the victim's wallet, and buckle swabs. This evidence from the scene of the crime including the car left running were placed in the police department's care for evidence investigation.
"We received a hand print on the hood of the vehicle that we were able to determine was the DNA of our victim," Pate said.
Perez continued to map out several ingoing and outgoing phone calls made to and from the phone believed to be the minor with Rhodes the night of the murder and Rhodes' phone themselves.
Michael Nagle with the U.S. Marshal Service was contacted on June 17th and received papers to review and analyze 60 days of historical records from Verizon Wireless to find a way to trace Rhodes.
"The incoming, outgoing would mean we have record of any calls made or received, and ones that were attempting to go through that may not have been answered," Nagle said.
Angelina County District Attorney Art Bauereiss asked if it was possible for the marshals to make a geographical location in order to track the locations, to which Nagle said yes but that something interesting happened with the phone.
"Around this time there was a phone call made to 611 which is a customer service number and it appears that the outbound caller's number changed from 4144 being the last four-digits and then changed it to 2508," Nagle said.
The next witness to take the stand was Lisa Uptown, who is a telephone communications expert for the Texas Department of Public Safety, asked to track the cell phone data from Rhodes phone.
"I tracked a phone showing that it started in the Lufkin area, and then in the early morning hours it was in the Nacogdoches area," Uptown said.
The jury was shown a graphical representation of the trail of the cellphone believed to be in possession of Rhodes on the day before and of the day of the crime. The graphs showed the cell phone towers used to make and receive calls.
Cross examination asked the distances involved in which tower would pick up the cell phone, and confirmed that these charts were not precise but a matter of general location.
The jury took a 20-minute recess for the afternoon break, but upon returning the first witness to take the stand was Kenneth Boyd who said he was dating Rhodes' mother the night of 2013 when the crime occurred.
"I got a phone call from Rakeem, and he said 'I [explicit] up' and he said he shot him, and said he charged him," Boyd said.
At that point, Boyd said he woke up, Rhodes didn't have anything on him when Boyd saw him, but said Rhodes' mother gave him a pistol that had an infrared light on it. Perez asked him where he hid the gun, and Boyd said he buried it.
"I was asked to hide it, that's all I know," Boyd said. "I knew where the tree was at, and I only went back to find it after Abbott came and talked to me."
He explained that at first he didn't want to give up the gun or tell him where it was, but after Abbott didn't 'leave it alone,' he said he turned it over to the detective. Boyd said that he buried it two to three feet under the ground wrapped in something, but it wasn't until 2015 that he gave it to detectives.
"I talked to him twice more before he went to jail, and he kept saying he messed up," Boyd said. "I asked if he was by himself and he told me he was with [minor]."
He was then asked what other involvement he had in the process of what took place on June 13th. Perez asked what he did with the clothes Rhodes was wearing at the time of the crime.
"I burned them," Boyd said. "I burned them in my sister's house because I was asked to, and that's when I took him to San Augustine and left him in a chicken house for a couple of days."
Boyd explained that he assisted in hiding Rhodes around Lufkin, Center, and San Augustine. He also said that a friend of his took Rhodes to Nacogdoches where he was apprehended by the marshals.
He said he has pending cases in Nacogdoches, and Shelby County. In cross-examination, the defense asked how many felony convictions he possessed. He said he was charged with capital murder, and it was overturned. The defense questioned if Boyd was given a plea bargain in exchange for information about his case, and he said he was not told about any dealings with lesser charges for disclosing information.
Larry Mitchell was the next witness to take the stand. He immediately stated he did not want to answer any questions. When he asked if he was a barber and cut Rhodes hair in June of 2013, he said he wasn't sure.
"I cut so many heads, I am really not sure," Mitchell said. "You know, I really do not want anything to do with this case. If I get in more trouble by not saying something, then that's fine."
Judge Bob Inselmann said he instructed Mitchell to answer the questions Perez was asking.
"What did you state to law enforcement about the night you cut Rakeem's hair," Perez said. "Do you remember telling detectives that Rakeem told you he went to Hodge's house because he said he just came into some money?"
This is when Mitchell said he did not remember saying that. Perez passed the witness, and the defense asked if Mitchell would answer his questions, and he said no he didn't want to do that either.