Defense: Eatonton man accused in killing of man for customized car has alibi

bpurser@macon.comApril 8, 2013 

PERRY -- A 23-year-old Eatonton man on trial for murder in connection with the slaying of another man for his customized car wasn’t even in Warner Robins at the time of the crime, his attorney told jurors Monday.

“He was in Putnam County,” Warner Robins attorney Jeff Grube said of Stewart Calvert Brannon, who is on trial in Houston County Superior Court.

Brannon is the accused lookout in the 2008 armed robbery and slaying of 25-year-old Mario Smith, a maintenance worker for the Houston County Board of Education. Convicted shooter Joshua Dupree Rounsoville, 25, also of Eatonton, is serving a life sentence without parole for the Smith killing.

Grube promised jurors he would call alibi witnesses to testify on Brannon’s behalf during the trial. Brannon is charged with murder, armed robbery and aggravated assault with a firearm.

Prosecutor Dan Bibler earlier told jurors Smith was shot in a Warner Robins storage unit for his customized red 1987 Chevrolet Monte Carlo with wide rims, and Brannon was equally guilty of murder in his death because of his alleged participation in the crime.

According to Bibler, Smith had advertised the car for sale in the AutoTrader magazine, and Rounsoville and Brannon responded to the ad. Smith kept the car in a storage bay behind the Glass Doctor at 2305 Watson Blvd.

While Brannon allegedly kept watch while parked in a black F-150 pickup truck Aug. 23, 2008, Smith was inside the storage bay with Rounsoville after the two had taken the car for a test drive, Bibler told jurors.

After Rounsoville shot and killed Smith, Rounsoville drove Smith’s car to a friend’s house in Putnam County, and Brannon followed in the pickup truck, Bibler said. Smith’s car was later recovered in some woods off Glenwood Springs Road in Eatonton.

Seanon Dinkins testified Monday about finding his brother’s body slumped against a wall in the back of the storage unit the day after he was killed.

The death penalty had been sought for both Brannon and Rounsoville. But each reached agreements with the prosecution for execution to come off the table.

If convicted, Brannon agreed to one of two sentences: life with the possibility of parole and life without the possibility of parole. In his plea agreement, Rounsoville agreed to a life sentence without parole and to testify against Brannon.

Both Brannon and Rounsoville are serving time in connection to a carjacking of another customized car in which the victim was left paralyzed. The crime took place 13 days before Smith’s slaying.

Authorities say Zapareo Glover, a 2005 Mary Persons High School graduate and former football player, was shot Aug. 10, 2008, in the parking lot of a Forsyth Dairy Queen for his customized Chevrolet Caprice.

Bibler told jurors that Brannon serving as the getaway driver in that crime demonstrates the crime against Smith was planned. Brannon and Rounsoville had wanted Smith to meet them the day of the Glover shooting, Bibler said. But when Smith said he couldn’t make it, the two turned to Glover’s car when they spotted it in the Dairy Queen parking lot, Bibler said.

Grube said while the prosecution may introduce evidence that may be damaging to Brannon, he asked jurors to weigh the evidence and give him the opportunity to cross-examine the prosecution’s witnesses. Whether Brannon will testify has not been determined yet, Grube said.

Brannon is serving a 15-year prison sentence in the Coffee County Correctional Facility for aggravated battery and theft in connection with the Forsyth carjacking. A third man, Robert Elon Burke of Eatonton, has been released on parole after serving about four months of a 10-year sentence for theft by taking in connection to the carjacking of Glover, according to the state Department of Corrections’ website.

Brannon is being held in the Houston County jail, where he was transferred from prison for trial.

Testimony is expected to resume Tuesday at 9 a.m. before Judge Katherine K. Lumsden.

To contact writer Becky Purser, call 256-9559.

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