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Shooting started over dispute involving beer bottle, witnesses say

By BY JESSICA PRIEST - JPRIEST@VICAD.COM
Sept. 18, 2012 at 4:18 a.m.
Updated Sept. 19, 2012 at 4:19 a.m.

Marcellus Brown

A Victoria man died last summer over a dispute over a beer bottle, witnesses said.

At least four people testified Tuesday about the events that led up to the shooting death of Daniel Davila, 24, on July 30, 2011, during the trial of Marcellus Brown, 21, one of six people charged with having a hand in the crime.

District Attorney Stephen Tyler said in opening statements police worked the crime scene near Pine Creek Park as "a routine shoot 'em up" before Davila's body was discovered by a neighbor in the 900 block of Goldman Street nearly 10 hours later.

Davila, he said, was caught in the crosshairs after a party at 806 Ash Street, attended by under-aged high school students, went awry.

He said Brown wielded the 9 mm handgun that killed Davila after Brown's friend, Joshua McClure, was hit in the head with a beer bottle during a brawl at the party hours earlier.

"This is quite literally curiosity killing the cat," Tyler said. "You won't hear that this was a plan to shoot Davila. ... Young people have an inflated sense of bravado, and it seems to be enhanced by a cold beer after midnight."

Brown's attorney Micah Hatley argued no evidence would prove Brown was even there. He said that's because the co-defendants have changed their stories multiple times, most likely because some had football scholarships hanging in the balance.

"It breaks my heart this young man was killed ... but the evidence will not show beyond a reasonable doubt (Brown killed Davila)," Hatley said. "We have ifs, mights and hows."

Also charged with murder are Joshua McClure, 20, Erica Nicole McClure, 26, Jasmine Norman, 19, Darlene Fraustio, age unavailable, Kia Johnson, 31, and Jefferson Hill, 19.

Johnson, who was Brown's girlfriend of three months at the time of the incident, testified for the state Tuesday in exchange for 10 years probation.

Brown joined her and the disgruntled partygoers at Johnson's apartment before concocting a plan to retaliate against the Hispanic men who hit McClure. Johnson said she gave them a lift in her car, as well a .22-caliber revolver, one of the three weapons police believe were used during the crime, but never found.

Crying at times, Johnson also testified she didn't see Brown at the time of the incident, but instead heard out of her car window Hill yell a racial slur before he stood over a downed man she presumed to be Davila and fired three or four shots with the .22-caliber revolver in his direction.

She also saw McClure standing underneath a streetlight near the intersection of Goldman and Pine streets and firing a shotgun.

"I paused in awe ... I was wrapped up in a tornado I couldn't get out of," said Johnson, who later admitted to being under the influence of Xanax and marijuana at the time of the incident.

She said she only told police "it might've been Marcellus" after they "drilled" into her that there were three shooters instead of two.

Other witnesses offered more insight into how Davila got involved.

Alfredo Lara, who leased the 806 Ash St. house, said he was surprised when he arrived home to find about 100 to 200 uninvited guests consuming alcohol.

Davila, his next-door neighbor, came out of his house to chat only after police had broken up the festivities. A short time later, Lara said he saw Davila at the park when the shooting began, but didn't know why he was there.

"When it went off, my main concern was my kids," Lara said of how he ran back into the house.

He said he didn't keep tabs on where Davila went after that.

Hill, a co-defendant, is expected to continue testifying Wednesday. He has accepted a plea deal of 10 years in prison in exchange for testifying.

The trial will resume at 9 a.m. Wednesday before District 135th Judge Kemper Stephen Williams.

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