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Cape woman stands trial on false alibi charge

Thursday, April 20, 2006

She is accused of lying about the whereabouts of Bernard Richards on Jan. 25.

A 19-year-old woman stood trial Wednesday on the charge of providing police with a false alibi for a man accused in the fatal shooting of a Cape Girardeau teenager.

Erica N. Ward, of 2218 Good Hope St., was charged with misdemeanor attempting to hinder prosecution. She is accused of lying about the whereabouts of Bernard Richards, 19, who is charged with second-degree murder in the Jan. 25 shooting death of Jacob Bowers, 17.

The bench trial, overseen by Associate Judge Gary A. Kamp, lasted a little more than an hour Wednesday afternoon and featured seven witnesses, most of whom had been at the scene of the shooting behind Du-Shell's Furniture, 2103 William St.

Cape Girardeau police Cpl. Don Perry testified he questioned Ward about her whereabouts at the time of the shooting. Ward told him that around 7 p.m. or 7:30 p.m., she picked up Bernard Richards and the two drove to pick up her paycheck from work, Perry said. They then drove out to a trailer court to visit a friend but came back to Ward's house when they found he wasn't home, Perry said.

When they pulled up at Rhodes, 2109 William St., Ward told Perry, she and Richards saw several police cars in the area. The two later learned Bowers had been killed, the corporal said.

The defendant's statement to police contradicts testimony by witnesses to the shooting, which occurred around 8:15 p.m. Jan. 25.

David McKee Jr., an acquaintance of Richards, testified Richards had been at the scene of the shooting. McKee said he was meeting someone behind Du-Shell's to sell him cocaine, when Bowers, a friend of the buyer, attempted to rob McKee at gunpoint.

Bowers and McKee struggled, and the two broke off and separated. A witness, Dustin Wondrick, testified he saw a black man point a gun and shoot Bowers. The only black man in the area was Richards, according to McKee.

'Two truths'

During cross-examination, Ward's attorney, Patrick McMenamin, attacked McKee's "two truths" of the shooting, citing testimony McKee had originally told police the shooter was his ex-brother-in-law.

The police "were threatening you with going down with the murder?" McMenamin asked, to which McKee agreed. He testified he told officers about Richards after about three minutes of questioning, and maintained that what he said then was the truth.

"They did not ask me to tell them it was Bernard Richards," McKee said.

In closing arguments, McMenamin questioned McKee's credibility as a witness.

"We do know one thing: David McKee is a liar," he said, referring to the witness' first statements to police.

But Prosecuting Attorney Morley Swingle said McKee's testimony was corroborated by the other witnesses at the scene.

"Clearly, this defendant was not telling the truth," he said of Ward.

Following the trial, Kamp took the case under advisement and would make a ruling at another time.

kmorrison@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 127


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