Attorney: No evidence to convict murder suspect

Published 10:12 am Wednesday, February 8, 2012

COURTLAND—Attorney Rebecca Colaw told a Southampton County jury there is no evidence to link her client to the Oct. 7, 2010, murder of Darrin Lee at Southampton Meadows Trailer Park.

“Jailhouse snitches” named Shahon Cumbo a suspect to gain leniency, Colaw said during Tuesday’s opening arguments in the 23-year-old Franklin man’s first-degree murder trial in circuit court.

“There is a lot of confusion about that night, and the people trying to clear up that confusion are doing so by naming people just to lessen their own burden,” she said.

Cumbo is among six charged with first-degree murder after they set out to rob Lee, a well-known drug dealer, said Commonwealth Attorney Eric Cooke.

“The purpose was to get money and whatever else they could get,” Cooke told jurors.

He said Cumbo and Rasheed Brown, 22, of Franklin planned Lee’s abduction from outside Man Market on South Street in Franklin. Cumbo, who was in a white Lexus with Ernest Jones Jr., 23, of Portsmouth and Bruce Boone, 19, of Suffolk, asked Jones and Boone to force Lee into his own car because Cumbo thought Lee would recognize him. Cooke told jurors that Boone and Jones, both of whom have pleaded guilty to a lesser degree of murder, would testify during the trial.

The men drove in three cars to Lee’s home on Route 258 between Franklin and the North Carolina line. That’s when a car driven by another man, who knew the abduction was taking place, pulled up, Cooke said.

Brown thought he’d been set up and shot Lee in the head, Cooke told the jury.

“Darrin Lee was a young man in the prime of his life, who was trying to turn things around and will not have the opportunity to do so,” Cooke said.

Lee’s brother, Jamar Douglas, testified that the two planned to move to Atlanta. Douglas, who lived with Lee, his mother, sister and his sister’s children, testified that when he got a phone call from his cousin about Lee’s abduction, he grabbed his .32-caliber revolver, and went outside and waited.

Douglas told the jury he hid behind the house and saw someone drive his brother’s car up to the home. He testified he saw a white car parked nearby, heard one or two gunshots, looked back and saw three guys running away. Douglas said he shot back “three or four times” before he threw his gun in the woods.

He then saw his brother lying on the ground.

“There was blood running from behind his head,” Douglas testified. “I took my shirt off and put it behind his head and waited for an ambulance.”

Douglas also testified that he moved his car from the driveway to make it easier for rescue crews to get to his brother. He said he later found a shell casing near the windshield wiper of the car.

Boone faces eight to 18 years in prison and Jones, 13 to 23 years.

Darrin Robinson, 22, of Suffolk will have his trial on April 26.

Brown has a jury trial on March 6. Quadrick Ashburn, 21, of Courtland two weeks ago also was charged with Lee’s murder.

Cumbo’s trial is expected to continue at 9:30 a.m. today, Feb. 8.