ELMIRA, N.Y. (WENY) – Opening statements began today in the trial of Willie Jenkins, an Elmira man who is one of two charged with second-degree murder for the stabbing death of 29-year-old Albert Sturgis at Gush's Thirsty Bear on June 12, 2017.
According to the Elmira Star Gazette, Chief Assistant Chemung County District Attorney John Thweatt told the jury police responded around 10:40 that night to reports of shots fired at the bar.
On the way, responding officers saw a car speeding down Washington Avenue and followed it.
The car stopped at St. Joseph's Hospital and when officers approached it, they discovered Sturgis in the back seat, bleeding from a severe stab wound.
Sturgis was rushed into the emergency room, but Thweatt says he died a few hours later from blood loss.
According to Thweatt, witnesses were uncooperative until a 17-year-old cousin of Sturgis came forward and said he witnesses the incident.
The cousin told police he and Sturgis were on the bar's patio when Sturgis got into an argument with some men, which eventually turned into a fistfight.
At one point, one of the men, who has been identified by police as Demetrius Mack, pulled a knife and started swinging it at Sturgis, wounding him, according to the cousin.
Thweatt said Sturgis then told the cousin to go get a weapon, but that's when Jenkins pulled what appeared to be a semiautomatic pistol and held the cousin up, preventing him from leaving.
According to Thweatt, Sturgis went into the bar and collapsed while Jenkins and the others fled the scene.
Police recovered a knife and cellphone from the scene, which they believe belonged to Sturgis. Thweatt said DNA analysis showed Sturgis did have his own knife, but didn't have a chance to use it to defend himself.
Thweatt told the jury even though Jenkins did not stab Sturgis himself, he was a willing participant and therefore just as guilty of murder as Mack, who was the one who allegedly stabbed the victim.
Jenkins' defense, Chemung County Public Advocate John Brennan, said he and Thweatt agreed on one thing – that Jenkins didn't stab Sturgis. But, Brennan said, that's where the agreement ends.
Brennan argued Sturgis was a larger man and was overpowering his assailant when he was stabbed.
Brennan also asked the jury to examine Jenkins' intent when he pulled a gun after hearing Sturgis tell his cousin to go get a weapon. He added the jury should question the credibility of the only witness who could place Jenkins at the scene.
Jenkins is already serving a 23-year state prison sentence for a November conviction in an unrelated shooting case.
Mack, who is also charged with second-degree murder, will be tried separately. His trial is scheduled to start on August 13 in Chemung County Court.
Information retrieved from the Elmira Star Gazette: www.stargazette.com