Houston & Peach

Testimony: Dennis Ray Eason instigated firing into apartment where boy was fatally wounded

'Spur of the moment' decision to get back drugs, or some money, ends with boy's slaying, co-defendant says

Co-defendant Antonio Darrelle Garvin testifies in Peach County murder trial of three charged with murder after shots were fired into a Fort Valley apartment Jan. 6 of last year. Eight-year-old Jai-Mel Anderson was fatally wounded in the incident.
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Co-defendant Antonio Darrelle Garvin testifies in Peach County murder trial of three charged with murder after shots were fired into a Fort Valley apartment Jan. 6 of last year. Eight-year-old Jai-Mel Anderson was fatally wounded in the incident.

A co-defendant testified Wednesday that Dennis Ray Eason instigated the firing of gunshots through the front door of an apartment that fatally wounded an 8-year-old boy last year.

Antonio Darrelle Garvin also told jurors that Tevin Juwan Sams fired first, followed by Kristian Jamal Wipfel.

Garvin said he and his cousin, Jeremy Quillen Jackson, drove Eason, Sams and Wipfel over to Shilo Baptist Church, next to Indian Oaks Apartments, early the morning of Jan. 6 last year.

Garvin said Eason wanted to get his marijuana back, or some money for that marijuana, from De’Jad Williams. Williams was taking care of the boy, Jai-Mel Anderson, when he was shot.

“Eason really had an issue with De’Jad Williams and how De’Jad owed him money because he ran off with some of his ... marijuana,” Garvin said.

Garvin’s testimony came on the third day of the Peach County trial of Eason, 27, of Fort Valley, and Sams, 22, and Wipfel, 21, both of Macon. The three men have pleaded not guilty to the murder charges against them.

The 22-year-old Garvin said he did not know what Eason, Sams and Wipfel were going to do when they headed down a path from the church to the apartment complex with two handguns.

Garvin said he started to panic and hoped his close friend, Wipfel, wasn’t about to do something he would regret.

“I felt like he (Eason) was really just egging them on,” Garvin said.

Eason was walking back to the cars parked alongside a shed at the church when Garvin said he heard gunshots.

Garvin said no one knew that Jai-Mel was lying on an air mattress in the living room. He said “words can’t describe” how he felt when he learned that the boy had been shot and had died.

“It was just terrible. ... My mind couldn’t really process everything that happened right then. It felt surreal to me,” he said.

The final co-defendant, Williams, 24, was dating Jai’Mel’s mother at the time of the shooting. Williams 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. Garvin testified that Eason used his cell phone to text Williams about the marijuana he owed him.

“He’s been texting him and they’ve been going back and forth and this has went to another level,” Garvin said.

Garvin told jurors that he drove Eason to various places in Valdosta to get rid of one of the guns that Eason disassembled. Garvin later drove Eason to a bus station in Atlanta for him to make a getaway. Eason was subsequently picked up by authorities at a bus station in Birmingham, Ala.

Garvin, and Jackson, 26, previously pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated assault in connection with boy’s death. The men originally also had been charged with murder. The plea agreement included their truthful testimony against the co-defendants.

Testimony is expected to continue Thursday, and the trial is expected to continue into next week.

Becky Purser: 478-256-9559, @BecPurser

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