CORRECTION: This article was updated July 26, 10:17 p.m. to correct the name of a witness that took the stand Wednesday morning. Joseph Pirotta was called as a witness in continuing testimony, not defendant Jhaden Davis. We apologize for this editing error.
BEAUFORT — Associates and friends of defendant Jhaden Davis took the stand this week, called to testify as the state continued its case in the jury trial against the 26-year-old accused of gunning down two men in 2012.
“He said he had shot somebody and things took a wrong turn,” Jasmine Hunter, a high school friend of Mr. Davis, said of a conversation she had with him the day after the murders during her Tuesday testimony in superior court.
“He just flat out told me … he threw it in the ocean,” she said of the alleged murder weapon, a P944 Ruger handgun.
Ms. Hunter, who said she had come to visit Mr. Davis in Beaufort the weekend of June 2, 2012, told the jury she allowed him to borrow her car – a vehicle the state now alleges was used in the murders of Albert and Duane Correll.
The Corrells, a father-son pair, were shot outside their home off Taylor Farm Road north of town in what authorities say they believe started as a robbery.
That robbery was premeditated, co-defendant Brandon Smallwood testified before the court Tuesday.
“About a week before the night of the murders, he kept saying he was going to rob someone,” Mr. Smallwood said while reading his signed statement given to the authorities during the investigation. He also said Mr. Davis had told him he was “waiting for a specific time” so he could rob Albert Correll after payday.
In a quiet voice, Mr. Smallwood told jurors he had been giving his co-worker, Mr. Davis, rides too and from work as a Navy corpsman aboard Camp Lejeune prior to moving into Mr. Davis’ Ann Street apartment earlier in 2012.
“There was heavy drug use there that I tried my best to turn a blind eye to,” he said.
Mr. Smallwood faces charges of accessory after the fact for providing a false alibi for Mr. Davis in days after the incident.
He detailed to the court how immediately following the shootings he drove Mr. Davis to Camp Lejeune despite Mr. Davis telling him the robbery had gone awry and he had shot someone.
“Davis did not want to stay at the apartment anymore. He felt safe on base,” he continued.
Mr. Smallwood said he continued to provide Mr. Davis and a third defendant, who authorities say was at the scene of the double homicide, Joseph Pirotta, with an alibi, because he was worried about the consequences, saying the alleged shooter “kept him in close proximity.”
During his testimony, Mr. Smallwood told the court he violated a military protective order designed to keep them a part and continued to see Mr. Davis despite the incident.
Mr. Smallwood, Mr. Davis and Mr. Pirotta were all arrested and charged in connection to the slayings in mid-June 2012.
“There was always something with their situation that I never should have been involved in,” he noted.
Several other defendants also testified to drug use and sales in and from the apartment Monday, including Jade Quenga, who knew several of the parties involved and was living with the Corrells at the time of their death.
She told the court Mr. Davis had accused her of stealing from him, causing Mr. Davis to threaten Albert Correll, with whom she was residing.
“Jhaden never threatened me directly,” Ms. Quenga testified, but allegedly told Albert Correll he was to bring her to the Ann Street apartment or he would “come to Taylor Farm and put a gun to our heads.”
Ms. Quenga, who was nearby when the shooting occurred, described the immediate aftermath of the scene, including how she named three men, Kevin Wells, Mr. Davis and Mr. Pirotta to authorities.
“I just fell to my knees. One of my best friends was dead, I didn’t know what to do,” she said.
Mr. Davis could be seen shaking his head during portions of Ms. Quenga’s testimony.
An initial suspect in the case, Mr. Wells, also took the stand Monday, telling the court he and Mr. Davis had planned to fight Albert Correll before his death, and had sent him a threatening text message the day before the murders.
“I took him (Mr. Davis) over there (to the Corrells’ home) the night before,” Mr. Wells said, telling the court they wanted to beat Albert Correll “as badly as possible.”
The defense, during cross examination, seemingly cast doubt on the creditability and reliability of several witnesses, asking questions of their memory, inconsistent statements to investigators, drug use and criminal history.
Defense attorney Richard McNeil pointed to several instances where witnesses had the opportunity to tell authorities about the shooting and did not.
Mr. Davis largely sat passively during this week’s proceedings, occasionally speaking with his attorney and taking notes.
Upon arriving back in Jacksonville the night of the murders, Mr. Davis, Mr. Smallwood, Ms. Hunter and another woman, Keyanna Garcia, spent the next two nights at hotels after Mr. Davis grew suspicious the police were onto him, several witnesses testified.
The group hung out, went to a hibachi restaurant and attended a movie, they noted.
Ms. Garcia also testified on the witness stand Tuesday, and Mr. Wells’ wife, Cora, spoke with jurors Monday on Mr. Well’s whereabouts during the time of the shooting.
Judge W. Douglas Parsons has instructed jurors to withhold judgment in the case until all witnesses can be heard and Mr. McNeil can present any forthcoming defense.
Mr. Pirotta took the stand this morning, and more witnesses are expected to testify, as well.