DAVENPORT, Iowa — Prosecutors in the murder trial of Deondra Thomas on Friday called a key witness to the stand who said Thomas told him, “he shot him.”
Thomas, 37, is charged with first-degree murder of community activist Jason Roberts, who died from several gunshot wounds suffered outside of the MVP Bar in downtown Davenport on June 9, 2018.
Thomas’ cousin told told jurors he had driven Thomas to MVP in his girlfriend’s car, a maroon GMC Yukon, on the night in question. He says he was sitting inside the vehicle, eating burritos and watching videos, when he heard two or three gunshots.
“I could tell it was in the parking lot.”
He says he saw people running and spotted Thomas several feet away. Thomas then got inside the car.
“Deondra said somebody put their hands on him,” he recounted. “Deondra got quiet. I got quiet. I just went to drop him off.”
As he pulled out of MVP’s parking lot, he says in his rearview mirror, he could see Jason Roberts lying on the ground.
Scott County Attorney Amy DeVine asked the witness to clarify if Thomas later admitted to shooting Roberts. The witness said Thomas stopped short of saying Roberts’ name, and only told him, “Dude put his hands on him and he shot him.”
Prosecutors also showed jurors photographs of the maroon vehicle, some appeared to have been taken from street cameras. The witness confirmed photos showed the vehicle he and Thomas were driving that night. But on cross-examination by defense attorney Jack Dusthimer, he could not answer how he could tell from the grainy pictures that the photographs showed the same car, nor who the people in it were.
Two brothers recounted their version of events outside MVP. Chad Murray told jurors he stood outside MVP Bar in Downtown Davenport when he heard several gunshots pop and saw Thomas “walking away methodically” from the scene.
His brother, Schlaan Murray, says he was in a nearby car and recalled hearing: “He’s shot, he’s shot! Jason’s shot!”
“I had seen blood everywhere, blood coming out of his mouth.” He said he was trying to shake the blood coming out of Roberts’ mouth. “It was happening so fast.”
Chad Murray, who due to his parole provisions was barred from Iowa, told the courtroom he had left the scene quickly to return to his hotel room on the Illinois side. His fiance, who was also present at MVP, later joined him there, in possession of the Jason Roberts mobile phone. It was dropped in the shooting’s aftermath. In a panic, Murray says he wrapped it in toilet paper and buried it outside. He told jurors he could not find it when he later attempted to retrieve it for police.
The trial is expected to continue into its fourth day Monday, with prosecutors calling on more witnesses including a ballistics expert.