Murder case dismissed against man accused of killing witness in murder trial
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The high profile murder case against Dejuan Hammond, accused of killing a witness in his brother's murder case, was dismissed Wednesday because two key witnesses could not be found.
Hammond was charged with the murder of Troya Sheckles, who was shot to death in Shelby Park in 2009 to prevent her from testifying against Lloyd Hammond.
"We are really disappointed," said Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Elizabeth Jones Brown. "The Sheckles family deserves complete justice. We hope to find the witnesses and bring the case back."
Sheckles' family was not in court when the case was dismissed and they couldn't immediately be reached for comment. Opening statements in the trial were to begin Wednesday afternoon.
Because the case was dismissed without prejudice, Jones Brown said Hammond can and will be re-indicted if those witnesses are found. Brown said, "I'm very glad he will be in custody, that is part of what went into our decision to dismiss."
The prosecution on Wednesday asked Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Angela McCormick Bisig to postpone the trial but she refused, leading to the dismissal.
Ted Shouse, who along with Annie O'Connell, represented Hammond said they were also disappointed the trial didn't go forward Wednesday, "because Dejuan is innocent. We looked forward to putting that fact before a jury."
As to whether the charges will be brought back up, Shouse said, "I suspect this case is over."
Hammond will remain in Metro Corrections as he has five other felony cases pending.
In May, a jury recommended that Hammond's co-defendant, Steven Pettway, be sentenced to 55 years in prison for killing Sheckles.
Prosecutors have said he was acting at the behest of Dejuan Hammond, because Sheckles had agreed weeks earlier to testify against Lloyd in the 2006 murder of her boyfriend and two other men.
One of the witnesses who couldn't be located for Dejuan Hammond's trial this week was Don'Teze Hurt, a friend of Sheckles' who was sitting next to her in the park when a man jumped over the picnic table behind them, shooting her twice.
Hurt identified Pettway during his trial as the man who shot Sheckles.
"I could pick him out then," Hurt said then, staring at Pettway as he identified him. "I could pick him out now. That gentleman there."
The other witness prosecutors and police couldn't locate was Ike Kinnison, who told police in 2011 that Pettway came into a home after Sheckles was shot and said he had killed a woman, shooting until his gun was empty.
When he testified during Pettway's murder trial, the friend, Kinnison, said he didn't remember making that statement and that he had been put "under a lot of pressure" by police.
Another reluctant witness, Princess Bolin, was found this week and had been ordered to return and testify against Dejuan Hammond, her boyfriend at the time of the murder.
She testified in May that Hammond sent her into Shelby Park to look for a woman and report back to him shortly before Sheckles was killed.
Brown said, "I think there was a problem with witnesses because this is a trial about a witness being killed."
But Shouse maintains, "The Commonwealth's case was always extremely weak here against Mr. Hammond. This was really just a lot of street talk and innuendo -- that's all this case was."
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