PERRY -- Jurors found a drug dealer guilty on all counts Thursday in the fatal shooting of a former TV videographer.
Eugene “Cash” Leslie, 29, was found guilty of malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault, aggravated battery, possession of a firearm during a crime and possession of cocaine with intent to distribute after a four-day trial in Houston County Superior Court.
He was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole plus 45 years.
Leslie, originally from Far Rockaway, N.Y., was convicted of shooting to death 32-year-old Jason Wade, a former videographer for WMAZ, in Wade’s duplex apartment off Brady Drive on Aug. 28, 2008, angry that Wade kicked him and his girlfriend out of Wade’s apartment.
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Jurors deliberated for about 1½ hours, returning the verdict within 15 minutes of coming back from a lunch break.
Some members of Wade’s family, who filled two of three rows behind the prosecution, gasped and broke down in tears when the verdict was read.
Jurors exited out a back door of the courtroom reserved for courthouse personnel and juries as the case moved into the sentencing phase.
A family friend read letters to the judge from two members of Wade’s family.
Jenice Wade said in her letter that her son was a good-hearted and caring person who stood by his friends for life.
“He did not deserve to be brutally murdered in the way he was,” Wade wrote.
She noted how the slaying had changed her whole family with all having lost their sense of security.
Amy Carroll wrote in her letter about how she still has vivid nightmares of her brother’s death. She also talked of driving by the cemetery where her brother is buried and blowing kisses to him with her young son.
She wrote that her son asks her how someone could have hurt his Uncle Jason.
Leslie addressed the court.
“I’m sorry to the family having to go through this,” he said, turning to face them. “I still don’t see where I had a fighting chance.”
He also talked about “being nice to the wrong people who caused me all this,” how his mom always told him not to pick up strangers and he had “stuck to his morals and was not mad.”
But Judge George F. Nunn said Leslie poses a real threat to society. He said he based that on what he saw and heard during the trial and on Leslie’s prior convictions in New York. Those include aggravated assault and sale of controlled substances.
“Certainly this was a terrible, senseless tragedy without any provocation or justification,” Nunn said.
Prosecutor Daniel Bibler said after the court proceedings that he was very pleased with the verdict.
“I think the evidence clearly supported it,” Bibler said. “I think the sentence is appropriate.
“Mr. Leslie is certainly a dangerous person and deserves to be in prison. I’m just glad the Wade family now can have some justice and some closure.”
David Daniell, a Warner Robins attorney appointed to represent Leslie, said Leslie will appeal. Daniell said he expects to file a motion for a new trial Monday.
During closing arguments from attorneys earlier Thursday, Bibler maintained that Leslie is a cold-blooded killer who shot the unsuspecting Wade six times while he was seated on a living room couch. Bibler argued that Leslie bought a .40-caliber pistol after being kicked out and went to the apartment, pulled the gun out of his girlfriend’s purse while she was in the bathroom and gunned down Wade.
But Daniell pointed the finger at Leslie’s girlfriend, Elizabeth Moore, who he said was getting a free pass and lied to save herself.
Moore testified earlier in the trial that she expected to receive a reduced sentence of five years on probation instead of 20 years in prison in exchange for her testimony. She was also the one who had the gun in her purse, Daniell noted.
Bibler countered that Daniell was using a defense of distraction to try to point jurors away from the truth. He said Moore’s testimony was consistent with what she told sheriff’s investigators in 2008. He said her testimony also matched that of Jason Evora, the other witness in the apartment. Evora testified he joined up with Leslie and Moore as they were walking to Wade’s apartment and thought they were going there to smoke marijuana as in the past.
Daniell had stressed to jurors throughout the trial how both Moore and Evora testified they did not see the shooter. Bibler countered that Moore testified she saw the gun in Leslie’s hand shortly before Wade was shot.
“It’s a safe bet that the man with the gun in his hand was firing shots,” Bibler told jurors. “That man was Eugene Leslie.”
To contact writer Becky Purser, call 256-9559.