Houston & Peach

Woman testifies to hearing sound of firecrackers, running feet in fatal wounding of boy

Come inside the courtroom of Peach trial of 3 charged with murder in boy's death

Testimony began Tuesday in the Peach County trial of three men charged with murder in 8-year-old's death. Jai-Mel Anderson was fatally wounded when bullets flew through front door of an apartment he was Jan. 6 of last year.
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Testimony began Tuesday in the Peach County trial of three men charged with murder in 8-year-old's death. Jai-Mel Anderson was fatally wounded when bullets flew through front door of an apartment he was Jan. 6 of last year.

Anica Dewberry was visiting her mother at Indian Oaks Apartments when she heard what sounded like firecrackers.

Fearing that the noise she was hearing was gunshots, Dewberry told a Peach County jury Tuesday that she and her mother instinctively got down on the floor of the living room.

Dewberry heard people running down the outside staircase of Building Two and crawled into the bedroom to peer outside through the window blinds. It was about 1:40 a.m. Jan. 6 of last year.

Dewberry was among those who testified Tuesday during the Superior Court trial of three men charged with murder after shots flew through the front door of a nearby apartment and fatally wounded 8-year-old Jai-Mel Anderson.

Dennis Ray Eason, 27, of Fort Valley, Kristian Jamal Wipfel, 21, of Macon, and Tevin Juwan Sams, 22, of Macon, pleaded not guilty at their arraignments.

Dewberry saw two men run along a path that leads to the back of the adjacent Shilo Baptist Church on East Church Street and go behind a shed. She then saw two vehicles pull out from the side of the shed and leave with their headlights turned off.

However, Dewberry was unable to identify the two men she saw out the window.

GBI agent Lee Weathersby told jurors about 16 bullets that pierced the steel front door of a neighboring apartment where a pajama-clad Jai’Mel had stayed up late to watch television while lying on an air mattress in the living room.

The boy, shot once in the leg and once in the upper torso, was rushed by ambulance to the Medical Center of Peach County, Navicent Health, where he was pronounced dead at 2:25 a.m.

Prosecutors brought into the courtroom the bullet-riddled door for jurors to view as Weathersby testified. Jurors also viewed a photograph of blood-stained gray air mattress with a Playstation controller resting on top.

Fort Valley police Detective Vetrimyer Miller told jurors about getting information from De’Jad Williams,who was taking care of the boy when he was shot, that identified Eason as the prime suspect.

Williams, 24, who was dating Jai’Mel’s mother at the time of the shooting, is pending trial on a charge of murder in the second degree in the boy’s death.

Williams is accused of encouraging and engaging in threats and aggravated assaults involving a firearm by text messages with Eason shortly before the shooting. He and Eason allegedly had a drug-related beef.

Other co-defendants Antonio Darrelle Garvin, 22, and Jeremy Quillen Jackson, 26, both of Macon, previously pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated assault in connection with boy’s death. Gavin and Jackson are expected to testify during the trial.

The trial before Judge Tripp Self is expected to last through the week, and possible into next week.

“We’re here for the long haul,” Self said from the bench Tuesday.

Testimony is expected to resume Wednesday morning

Becky Purser: 478-256-9559, @BecPurser

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