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Murder defendant accuses his cousin in 2017 shooting death

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Ramone Malone-Bullock took the stand in his own defense Thursday afternoon claiming he wasn’t the one who shot and killed 31-year-old Harry Beecher and pointing the finger of blame at his cousin.

“Who killed Harry Beecher?” Malone-Bullock’s attorney Tom Sallenger asked.

“William Saxton,” Malone-Bullock replied.

Malone-Bullock, 24, is on trial for first-degree murder in Beecher’s April 2017 shooting death. Prosecutors say what started as a birthday party for a young child on April 1, 2017, turned deadly shortly after midnight when a card game led to a dispute over money between Malone-Bullock and Beecher at a Lincoln Street home.

“Did you have anything to do with Harry getting shot?” Sallenger asked.

“No,” Malone-Bullock replied.

Malone-Bullock testified he left the Lincoln Street home and went to Saxton’s house on Packhouse Road, where he told his cousin he got into a slight argument with Beecher. He said Saxton, his cousin, said it was a big deal and he would show him how to handle it.

Malone-Bullock said he didn’t think his cousin would kill Beecher but he was protective over him since they were family. Malone-Bullock told jurors that Saxton got into the car with him, drove back toward town and dropped him off for a short card game on Suggs Street with a man whom he only described by his nickname “Old School,” according to testimony.

That man is now dead, he told jurors.

He also testified the man had a twin brother and their last name may have been Rogers.

Malone-Bullock said Saxton came back several minutes later, honked the horn and picked him up from the Suggs Street home and the two men drove a short distance. That’s when Saxton was dropped off behind an apartment near the scene after the crime occurred. Malone-Bullock said he left.

When Malone-Bullock was questioned by police the following morning, he initially told them he wasn’t even at the Lincoln Street party, nor did he know Beecher.

He testified he told police that because he felt like their questioning would lead him to implicating his cousin, Saxton.

“We always say, ‘family first,’” Malone-Bullock said.

Malone-Bullock did tell police a day later in a different interview that before he went to the birthday party on Lincoln Street, he was out target-shooting at Saxton’s home. After he left, he went on about his day, he said.

‘YOU CAN’T TELL US WHO HE WAS’

Wilson County Assistant District Attorney Joel Stadiem wasn’t buying Malone-Bullock’s story on cross-examination.

He asked why Saxton would be so angry that he’d shoot someone if Malone-Bullock had told his cousin that the minor argument between he and Beecher wasn’t a big deal. Stadiem also questioned the alleged alibi witness known only as “Old School” who Malone-Bullock said he was with when the killing occurred.

“This person would have been able to tell us where you were during the murder,” Stadiem said. “This person could have completely exonerated you. But you can’t tell us who he was.”

Stadiem pressed the issue, saying Malone-Bullock or his lawyer could have found this man and obtained a sworn affidavit before he died of cancer if the story was true.

“You happen to be there long enough for your cousin to shoot a man he’s had no confrontation with whatsoever?” Stadiem said.

Stadiem said Malone-Bullock made a mistake when he told police he was out target-shooting that day at Saxton’s house. If he hadn’t told them that, detectives probably would have never found the murder weapon, he said.

“Isn’t it true that you killed Harry Beecher and you tried to cover it up by getting William Saxton killed?” Stadiem said.

“No, sir,” Malone-Bullock replied.

‘BOOM, HE HIT HIM’

Malone-Bullock’s testimony differed from witnesses’ testimony on Wednesday. Those witnesses who were at the Lincoln Street home that night said Malone-Bullock got into a heated argument. Punches were thrown and the two had to be separated. And Malone-Bullock was angry, they said.

Those witnesses also testified that Saxton was not there. Saxton himself testified that he never went to the Lincoln Street home and didn’t even know Beecher.

Witnesses for the state’s case, including Devanta Jamal Battle, said Malone-Bullock left the Lincoln Street home and came back a short time later and shot Beecher. Prosecutors believe that’s when he went to retrieve the gun he had borrowed earlier in the day.

Battle said he tried to stop Malone-Bullock, who he considered a close friend at the time, from shooting Beecher.

“Boom, he hit him,” Battle said on Wednesday, referring to single gunshot. “I can’t stop no bullet. I ducked and heard a gunshot and saw Harry grab his arm.”

Battle said Malone-Bullock was “zoned out” after the shooting took place. He said he also asked Malone-Bullock why he shot Beecher.

“He was gone, out of it,” Battle said, describing Malone-Bullock’s demeanor.

Malone-Bullock left the scene, he said.

Battle said he and the others who witnessed the killing ran. They didn’t want to be involved, he testified Wednesday.

The three men who witnessed the shooting initially told police they had left the Lincoln Street home and came back after they heard a gunshot. They later changed their story.

‘HE WASN’T THE ONE WHO PULLED THE TRIGGER’

Wilson Police Detective Justin Godwin also testified Thursday that all the evidence pointed to Malone-Bullock, not his cousin, Saxton. He said no witnesses said anything that led investigators to Saxton, who wasn’t even at the Lincoln Street home that night.

Malone-Bullock had the motive, officials said. Police said his cousin, Saxton, just let him borrow the gun after target shooting not knowing he would kill someone.

“The evidence told me his gun was used, but he wasn’t the one who pulled the trigger,” Godwin testified.

Saxton testified Wednesday that his cousin did come over to his Packhouse Road home that Saturday prior to the birthday party. The two were target-shooting in the yard. Saxton testified his cousin asked him if he could purchased the Taurus .380-caliber handgun, but he told him no. He did tell him he could take the gun down to their granddaddy’s house about a half-mile away.

Saxton said he never saw his cousin again that day, but that Malone-Bullock returned the gun on Sunday while he was at work. Saxton said he didn’t look at the gun until Wilson police detectives came to his home the following day. He testified that’s when he noticed there were no bullets in the chamber.

Bullock testified he was nervous when detectives interviewed him that first time and he didn’t tell police his cousin had the gun. Detectives eventually went back to interview Saxton in December 2017, where he then admitted he let his cousin “hold it.”

Detectives also testified that Saxton told police where his gun was during their investigation. He also gave them the name and phone number of the person to whom he sold the gun. He said he made the sale because he was about to begin probation and couldn’t legally possess a firearm.

Stadiem pointed out that Saxton never got rid of the gun. He asked why Saxton would tell police where to find the gun if he had killed Beecher.

Detectives also testified that Saxton let them go onto his property to look for shell casings.

‘GET RID OF HIM’

Prosecutors also said when Malone-Bullock found out his cousin told police he’d let him borrow the gun earlier that day before the party on Lincoln Street, he wanted to take him out.

Battle had previously testified that Malone-Bullock contacted him from prison in 2018. Malone-Bullock was serving time for selling heroin in an unrelated case.

Battle testified that Malone-Bullock “wanted me to get rid of him,” referring to Saxton.

Battle said from prison, Malone-Bullock came up with a ruse for Battle to lure his cousin somewhere to make it happen. The first time failed but on the second try, Battle shot Saxton in the face and back on a dead-end road in rural Wilson County. Saxton survived.

Battle said he only shout Saxton because it would have helped “everybody” involved. He also said it would protect his little brother, who also witnessed Malone-Bullock shoot Beecher on that April 2017 night.

“You never thought your boys would rat you out,” Stadiem pressed during one Thursday exchange with Malone-Bullock.

“They didn’t have anything to tell on me about,” Malone-Bullock replied.

Malone-Bullock claimed on the witness stand that he never contacted Battle about taking out his cousin, nor did he provide Battle with a gun and cellphone in a mailbox to do so.

Malone-Bullock said in 2015, he got busted for selling heroin and his cousin, Saxton, was the supplier. He said he stopped selling heroin when he got caught. Sallenger asked him if he knew who took his place selling heroin after that. He claimed it was Battle.

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