October trial date set in Wings Cafe killings

Although an Oct. 26 trial date has been set, it’s unclear how many men charged in the fatal shootout at Wings Cafe may be sitting at the defense table then.

A lawyer representing 39-year-old Vertuice Wall Jr., one of seven men charged with murder in the case, has entered a speedy trial demand, putting prosecutors on notice that Wall must go to trial by the end of the November trial term or be acquitted.

Lawyers for Wall, Kenyata Norreece Lester, 30, Emmanuel McGhee, 29, and Markques Patterson, 30, have filed motions asking a judge to give them separate trials.

At a Thursday hearing, prosecutor Sandra Matson said she wants to put as many of the 11 people charged in the case on trial at the same time as possible for “judicial economy.”

Although 26-year-old Shavious Antwan Balkcom, 24-year-old Master John Henry Brown, 29-year-old Derek Montez Taylor and 29-year-old Eric Watkins aren’t charged with murder, the same evidence will be presented in their cases as in trials for Wall, Lester, McGhee, Patterson, Tavarus Antwone Coney, 30, Brinton Williams, 30, and Jaquez Terrance Foster, 24.

But with Coney, Balkcom, Brown and Taylor not having been arrested, “the gang’s not all here,” she said.

Chief Bibb County Superior Court Judge Tripp Self spent much of Thursday hearing pretrial motions in the case, which authorities allege involves a dispute between two rival gangs.

Surveillance footage shows alleged Blacc Team members arriving on Dec. 12, entering and fighting with alleged Crips members who already were at the club. Shots were fired from both sides, authorities say.

Corey Hollingshed, 25, George Henley, 34, and Derrick Jackson, 38, were shot to death.

Nastajah Taylor, 23, was shot four times, but she survived.

Balkcom, Brown and Taylor face charges stemming from fighting at the club.

Watkins is charged with theft by receiving stolen property and two violations of the gang act.

Self reserved his ruling on a defense motion for jurors to be sequestered during the trial. Matson argued against sequestering, saying it would put “undue pressure” on jurors.

Wall’s lawyer, Dennis Scheib, argued that it’s hard to shield jurors from media coverage without sequestering them. He hinted at filing a motion later seeking to move the trial.

Self also reserved his ruling on prosecutors’ request for jurors to hear evidence of alleged prior incidents between the two gangs.

A motion filed includes a summary of the alleged prior incidents:

Oct. 12, 2014, members of the Blacc Team allegedly fought with a man at Wings Cafe. Lester allegedly assaulted the man’s father. Shots were fired in the parking lot. Prosecutors are awaiting results of ballistics tests from the GBI.

Dec. 9. 2014, McGhee and other Blacc Team members fought with the man’s father and another man at Club Status. McGhee allegedly snatched hair braids from the head of one of the men and posted a photo of them on Facebook bragging about his participation in the fight. Authorities think the fight may have stemmed from a fight a couple of nights earlier at Club Status involving McGhee.

Sometime between the Dec. 12 shootout at Wings Cafe and Feb. 24, 2015, alleged Blacc Team member Johntellis Mathis is reported to have brandished a firearm and threatened a man involved in the Club Status incident at Macon Garden Apartments.

March 1, 2015, a report of shots being fired in the area of Fairview Avenue and Maynard Street was received by Bibb County deputies. Deputies stopped a car on Gray Highway. Derek M. Taylor, an occupant of the car, told deputies he “was just firing the weapon to get their attention.” Two shell casings were recovered from the front passenger floorboard. A gun was found in the parking lot of a Krystal restaurant. The gun was sent to the GBI for testing because its caliber matched one used in the Wings Cafe killings.

May 5, 2015, a substance suspected to be marijuana was discovered in a house in the 800 block of Little Short Street when deputies served a search warrant. Deputies also found digital scales and took three cellphones. Mail in the home was addressed to Brown and another man. Brown was at home during the search.

Wings Cafe closed after the December shootout. The owner agreed a month later not to reopen for two years after officials sought a review of the business’ alcohol license.

Jackson’s widow has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the club, seeking more than $1.1 million, alleging that the club and other unnamed defendants were negligent in not providing better security despite prior incidents.

Nastajah Taylor also has filed suit against the club, according to Bibb County State Court records.

Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report. To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398.