Although Kashala Ardister and Tanisha Hardman were cousins, they were more like sisters, Ardister told a Bibb County jury Tuesday.
They grew up together, living in the same room for much of their childhoods. Sometimes they slept in the same bed.
When they moved to different cities as adults, they frequently talked and texted each other.
Tuesday from the witness stand, Ardister recounted her last conversations with Hardman.
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She read text messages from Hardman saved on her cell phone in which the 24-year-old Hardman talked about being pregnant. Ardister also said she was on the phone with Hardman when she told her family about the new baby.
The man Hardman identified as her baby’s father, 28-year-old Melvin Washington Jr., is on trial in Bibb County Superior Court facing murder charges.
Charles Lester testified he was unemployed Dec. 8, 2008, and was searching for scrap metal to sell when he found Hardman’s body at Cherry Tree Hill Apartments.
He became emotional Tuesday as he described the discovery.
“It was shocking to see a pretty young lady on the ground like that,” Lester said.
Lester said he was afraid the person who killed Hardman might still be in the area, so he ran and banged on doors until he found maintenance staff who called police.
Macon police Sgt. John Horton testified that Hardman’s body was completely covered in frost when he arrived soon after 8 a.m.
Hardman’s hands were in her pockets, and her purse was still on her arm. Nothing was taken from the purse, and her key ring was around her thumb, he said.
“There didn’t appear to be any sign of a struggle,” Horton said.
Although police didn’t find Hardman’s cell phone at the scene or in her car that was parked nearby, Horton said there was no sign that robbery was the motive for the killing.
He said it appeared as though Hardman was shot in the same location where she was found. A 9mm shell casing was recovered near her body.
Prosecutor Elizabeth Bobbit told the jury in opening statements Monday that Washington, a married man, had the motive to get rid of “a big problem” in his life created by Hardman’s pregnancy.
Washington’s lawyer, Mark Beberman, said the prosecution’s case is circumstantial and that there’s no direct evidence linking Washington to the killing.
Ardister said she exchanged multiple text messages with Hardman the day before her death, in which Hardman said she thought she might be pregnant.
Hardman wrote that the baby’s father was thinking about not having the baby but that she wanted to have it. Hardman was concerned about the baby growing up without a father, but Ardister said she reassured her cousin the baby would be OK without a father.
The women exchanged more text messages the next day.
In court Tuesday, Ardister read messages of Hardman detailing her excitement, that she had confirmed the pregnancy and that she was planning to tell her family the news.
Before leaving work for the night, Hardman told her cousin she was planning to talk with the baby’s father after work, Ardister testified.
Hardman’s roommates testified she told them Washington was the baby’s father. Although Hardman and Washington were involved in an off-and-on relationship, they were “just friends” in December 2008, said Kasia Allen, a high school friend and roommate.
Allen said Hardman told her roommates she’d had sex with Washington in November.
Washington’s brother-in-law, 28-year-old Horace Sanford III of Macon, also is charged with murder in connection with Hardman’s death. His case is being tried separately and is still pending.
Testimony in Washington’s case is scheduled to resume Wednesday.
To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398.