Murder trial focuses on witness testimony

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 14, 2005

“He’s got a gun.”

The surviving victim of a summertime double shooting said as he sobbed openly Tuesday when he recalled the night he was injured and his friend lost his life.

Orlan “J.R.” Harper Jr., 19, of Ironton,

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took the witness stand in Tuesday in the trial of Willam “Bub” Cooper Jr, the man accused of shooting Harper and his friend, Scott Marcum in July.

During direct examination by Lawrence County Prosecutor J.B. Collier, Harper testified he, Marcum, Cooper and a few other people were at the strip mines near Porter Gap Road the night the shooting took place.

Harper said he and Scott were talking about a personal problem Harper had when Bub Cooper came to him and asked him for a lighter so he could set his four wheeler on fire, because it would not work.

“He was drunk, kind of mad at everyone and aggravated, like,” Harper said.

Shortly after that exchange, Harper said Cooper left the strip mines on foot and the activities amongst the friends at the strip mines ceased. Harper and his girlfriend then followed Marcum and his wife, Jackie Marcum, back to the Marcum residence on Township Road 151 E., where the two men sat outside talking.

“We were there about 20 minutes, sitting there when we heard a commotion over the hill at Freddy’s,” Harper said, referring to the residence of neighbor and friend, Fred Sisler, where the shootings took place.

“When we got down there, Fred had Cooper in kind of a full nelson, laying on the ground and he was saying ‘Bub, you’ve got to calm down, you’ve got to calm down. There’s no sense acting like this.’ We stood there a few minutes and Fred let Bub up and when Fred let Bub up, he was fighting mad.”

Harper testified Cooper said something unpleasant first to him and then to Marcum and then struck Marcum in the face.


Scott got up and hit Bub, just knocked Bub out,” Harper testified.

When Collier showed Harper photographs of Marcum’s facial injuries, Harper burst into tears.

“This is the first time I’ve seen those,” he cried. Harper cried for a couple of minutes while on the witness stand and then sobbed openly while among friends and family members in the third floor lobby during a brief recess.

Harper said he and Marcum went back to Marcum’s residence where he sat outside and Marcum went inside to tend to the injuries to his face.

“We were getting ready to go in when we heard the gun shot,” Harper said. “Scott said ‘We’ve got to go check of Freddy’ so we jumped on the four-wheeler.”

Harper said they met Cooper, driving his Blue Chevrolet Blazer, on the road on the way to Sisler’s house. When the two men got off the four-wheeler they saw the elder Cooper standing in the road by his car in the crease of the car door.

“I could hear Fred say ‘Dammit, Scott he’s got a gun,’” Harper said.

“I kind of put my hands up and I said ‘What are you shooting there?’ and someone said ‘A .38’ and then squeezed the trigger,” Harper told the court. He began to cry. “At first I couldn’t feel my legs and I just laid there.”

Harper said he saw Marcum rush up to the car and try to move the door against Cooper. He said that is when Cooper shot Marcum twice.

“I saw Scott stagger up toward the porch and I got up and laid down beside him and I said ‘Scott, that (expletive) shot me,’ and he said ‘It’s alright, he shot me, too.’”

“Did you ever get to his vehicle?” Collier asked.

“I was probably no closer than two or three feet from the front bumper,” Harper replied.

“Did you ever try to pin him in?” Collier asked.

“I swear to God, never,” Harper replied, crying.

When Collier asked Harper if anyone mentioned killing Cooper, the young man said “Nobody said nothing about killing no one.”

“You had no bad blood toward (Cooper)?” Collier asked.

“I didn’t even know him,” Harper said.

“Did you ever see anyone struggle with this man?” Collier inquired.

“Scott was the only person who touched his car,” Harper answered. Harper denied seeing Fred Sisler or his wife, Kathy Sisler, strike the elder Cooper

During cross examination, defense co-counsel Rick Faulkner took issue with Harper’s testimony about whether he knew William Cooper prior to the shooting.

“So you never saw who shot you?” Faulkner asked.

“I saw who, I just didn’t know who he was,” Harper replied.

“So you identified him but you didn’t know his name? Didn’t you just say your dad had to point him out to you?” Faulkner asked.

Faulkner also inquired about the parties at the strip mines.

“Many times when things got out of hand, alcohol was involved,”Faulkner alleged.

“Sometimes,” Harper replied.

“And were there fights over the women? The girls?” Faulkner asked.

“I can’t remember any fights over girls,” Harper answered.

Faulkner questioned whether Harper knew of marital troubles between Scott and Jackie Marcum and if he knew anything about marital issues between Cooper and his wife, Amber. Harper replied he did not.

Faulkner also inquired why the two victims went to the Sisler residence after they heard a commotion between Sisler and Bub Cooper.

“You started hearing a commotion, no one called you, you took it upon yourselves to go (to the Sisler residence) and you got there and Fred had ahold of Bub, he was on top of him, in a Full Nelson,” Faulkner said.

“He was not on top of him, he was on the ground, laying beside him,”Harper replied.

Faulkner also took issue with Harper’s contention that he was not close enough to Cooper’s car at the time of the shooting to pose a threat to the elder Cooper.

“The car door was open and Mr. Cooper was standing in the crease of the car and you never got close to him?” Faulkner asked.

“No,” Harper replied. “… I couldn’t touch that car.”

“That’s not what you said July 5 when (Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office) detective (Aaron) Bollinger took your statement,” Faulkner said.

“July 5 I just woke up in the hospital. I hadn’t been awake but a couple of hours,” Harper said.

Also testifying Tuesday: Lawrence County Sheriff Tim Sexton, who interviewed the Sislers at his office shortly after the shooting, Bollinger on his investigative work after the shooting, Montgomery County Deputy Coroner, Dr. Russell Uptegrove, who performed Marcum’s autopsy and Ironton police detective Jim Akers, who also assisted in the investigation.

The trial continues today before Lawrence County Common Pleas Judge Frank McCown.