‘Robbery turned murder?’

Published 10:12 am Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Defense refutes prosecution’s case

“Pay me or pay God.”

Those were the last words Justin Adams heard before he was shot in the face by Justin Wilson on Jan. 13, 2015, according to Lawrence County Prosecuting Attorney Brigham Anderson.

It was a robbery-turned-murder that night, after Nicole Eller and Derek Rice conspired to take money and drugs from the 30-year-old victim. Rice enlisted the help of Wilson, who brought the gun. When Adams wouldn’t give up his cash and drugs, Wilson became violent, pistol-whipping the man on the head, throwing him on the couch and finally shooting him in the left eye from at close range.

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This is what the prosecution told the jury during opening statements on Monday afternoon, following jury selection and a viewing of the crime scene at 37 Township Road 616 in South Point.

Wilson’s attorney, Gene Meadows, told the jury the prosecution would not be able to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.

“There are problems in this case,” Meadows said. “These problems are what create the doubt in this case.

“Rice and Eller wanted drugs. They did what they could to get them. They admitted it and they needed a scapegoat,” Meadows said. “They pointed to Justin Wilson and that’s not right. They are the ones creating a story. Once you hear all this, you’ll have no choice but to render a verdict of not guilty.”

Eller, who pleaded guilty in May to first-degree aggravated robbery and third-degree obstruction of justice and is serving a 14-year sentence, testified that Adams owed her $100, which he paid back and then took back so he could buy more drugs. Eller said she and Rice sent text messages to each other to plan a robbery to get Adams’ cash, heroin and Xanax.

Later that evening, Eller and Adams were at the home on Township Road 616 when Rice and Wilson show up. When Adams wouldn’t give up his money or drugs, Eller said things got physical.

“They start wrestling around a little bit,” she said. “Wilson hits him in the head with the gun at least four times. Adams falls back on the couch.”

That’s when Eller said Wilson said, “Pay me or pay God.”

After Wilson shot Adams, Eller said Rice took the money and drugs, giving her $100. The two men ran and she called 911.

Eller testified that she lied to investigators initially, telling them an unknown black man tried to rob them and shot Adams. She said she later told the truth about the incident when questioned by investigators again later that evening.

Eller also testified she didn’t know Wilson and she didn’t find out he was coming to the home until shortly before, but knew he would have a gun.

Meadows asked Eller whether items in the living room of the home got knocked over during the struggle she described, and she said yes.

Shane Hanshaw, an investigator with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, testified Monday and photos of the crime scene, including Adams’ body on the couch, were shown to the jury. Nothing in the living room was shown to be out of place or knocked over, save for the glass top of the coffee table. Hanshaw said it didn’t appear that an altercation took place in the living room.

Hanshaw did testify that, based on stippling and soot on the victim’s face, the shot was taken at close range, possibly within 1 foot. One 9 mm cartridge case was found once the body was moved from the couch, Hanshaw said.

Deputy Brad Layman of the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office also testified. He responded to the 911 call and was told by Eller that a black man had shot Adams, he said. Layman said he helped clear the scene and contacted a detective.

Today, testimony is expected to resume with Rice taking the stand, as well as a cab driver who drove Wilson to Huntington on the night of the shooting, and Wilson’s child’s mother.