In the day or so before Gwendolyn Cole’s east Macon home was sprayed with more than 70 bullets, her son got a phone call from the man on trial for his mother’s death.
“I know how to hurt you. I know where your mom stay,” Cole’s son Alphonso Rose Jr. testified his once drug-selling partner, Benjamin Finney, had told him on the phone.
Finney, 39, and Marlon Jackson, 37, each are charged with murder in Cole’s 2008 shooting death.
Jury selection in Finney’s trial began Monday in Bibb County Superior Court. Jackson is being tried separately.
Finney, who served a stint in federal prison on drug and gun charges after the killing, has rejected a plea offer from prosecutors in Cole’s killing.
After wiretap evidence in the case was thrown out due to procedural issues, the prosecution offered to allow Finney to plead guilty to voluntary manslaughter with a 20-year sentence, 12 of them in prison. As part of the deal, he’d receive credit for time he’s served behind bars since 2008.
In her opening statement to jurors Tuesday, Finney’s lawyer, Pamela Bettis, admitted that her client sold drugs, but she said that doesn’t make him a killer.
She cast doubt on the prosecution’s case, offering up other men as possible suspects and saying the police investigation wasn’t as thorough as it should have been.
In her opening statement, prosecutor Sandra Matson blamed Cole’s death on a lust for money, the trigger-happy “dope trade” and what she described as Finney’s ill-fated and greed-fueled quest to hunt down the people who’d robbed him and his family in a 2007 middle-of-the-night home invasion.
Matson said Finney was the leader of east Macon’s narcotics sales who had “connections with the Mexicans.”
“He ran the streets. … He owned them,” she said.
A Super Bowl night fight
Rose, who was Cole’s youngest child, testified Tuesday that Finney pistol-whipped him on the night of the Super Bowl, Feb. 3, 2008, accusing him of being involved with the robbery at his house.
He said Finney had told him previously that intruders had taken 300 pounds of marijuana, two kilograms of cocaine and $30,000.
The drugs would have been worth as much as $500,000 on the street, said Rose, who admitted selling drugs with Finney in east Macon before going into business on his own in south Macon.
On the morning after his Super Bowl night clash with Finney, Rose alleges he got a call from Jackson and other men who accused him of shooting up a house belonging to Jackson. He denied having a part in the shooting, but when the men continued accusing him, he set out to meet them, Rose testified.
Rose said he was “hot-headed” when he picked up his friends, Andre Bonner and another man, on his way to meet the men.
He and his friends were armed with guns when they drove by the Hawkinsville Avenue house of one of Rose’s friends and saw Finney run out with a gun in his hand. Rose, who was driving, drove past the house and doubled back. He fired shots into the yard from the car and drove off, Rose testified.
A man was injured in the shooting, but Rose, who was charged with the shooting, has not been prosecuted, he said.
After leading police on a chase, with men dropping guns out of the car as they drove, Rose said he and his friends got away.
Matson said Cole pleaded with her son to turn himself in.
Rose said he agreed, but before that happened he learned his mother had been killed.
A knock at the door
In her opening statement to jurors, Matson said men dressed in black went to Cole’s house on Bradstone Circle, off Millerfield Road, about 10 p.m. Feb. 4, 2008.
Someone knocked at the door and asked if her son was home.
Bettis said the person knocking identified himself as Wayne and was heard by a person who was on the phone with Cole at the time.
Shots from assault rifles were fired from the front door, around the side of the house and around from the back, Matson said. The 55-year-old widow was shot multiple times but survived a ride to a hospital. She died the next morning.
Half the shell casings matched an assault rifle recovered two years later, one of three purportedly purchased at Finney’s direction and with his help in 2007, Matson said.
Finney, who was a convicted felon, couldn’t lawfully buy a weapon. He’d been convicted on federal drug charges in 1998.
His girlfriend and a friend testified Tuesday that they had purchased multiple guns with Finney’s help in the year before Cole’s death.
Testimony in the case is set to resume Wednesday.
Reporter Joe Kovac Jr. contributed to this report.