Plaza Motel murder, defense: My client's a drug dealer not a mur -, GA News Weather & Sports

Plaza Motel murder, defense: My client's a drug dealer not a murderer

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It was a Friday night and a payday when two Fort Benning contract workers threw a party equipped with alcohol and prostitutes; by the end of the night one of the men lay dead on the floor of a motel room.

Julian Hernandez, 38, was shot four times on September 8, 2011 at the Plaza Motel on Victory Drive in Columbus.

Two men, Calvin Denson and Dominique Lowe, are accused of robbing and killing Hernandez.

"It was a crime of opportunity," said Assistant District Attorney George Lipscomb during opening statements.

According to Lipscomb, Hernandez and his friend Luis Hernandez-Aguires asked an admitted prostitute Christina Clark if she knew anyone they could buy cocaine from.

Clark called Dominique Lowe, known as "D-Lowe," who showed up to the motel with crack cocaine; however, Hernandez and his friend wanted powder cocaine.

Libscomb said Hernandez pulled out a wad of cash giving Lowe $60 to go get the narcotic.

"So Lowe sees [Hernandez] has all this money and that what we believe is the beginning of this whole scheme of robbery," Libscomb said.

A short while later Lowe returned with the drug but he was not alone.

Lowe entered the small room and gave the cocaine to Hernandez who argued it was not $60's worth.

All the while, Clark was on the phone with a Muscogee County Jail inmate named Marcus Price; generally all calls from the jail are recorded.

According to Libscomb, you can hear the interaction between Lowe and Hernandez in the background of the recording.  

"You'll hear them arguing about the drugs and the instantaneously, as [Lowe] is either standing in the doorway or steps outside for a minute, Calvin Denson comes in," said Libscomb.

Wearing a blue or black handkerchief, as described by one of the prostitutes inside the hotel room, Denson allegedly barged into the room, ordering everyone to the floor and for Hernandez to give up his money.

Libscomb said Hernandez got up from the floor and confronted Denson. That 'swhen shots rang out.

It was a shot to the chest that traveled through Hernandez's body puncturing his left lung, heart, and other arteries before coming to a rest in his lower back that killed him, Chief Deputy Medical Examiner for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Dr. Jacqueline Martin testified. Martin was the first witness of the trial, and she also performed the autopsy. According to Martin, Hernandez was also shot in the left arm and both thighs.  

They then stole his wallet and fled the scene, said Libscomb. However, a short time later Denson came back.

"He takes a cloth, I imagine the one on this face, and kind of starting dusting [the room] and door knob, then leaves again," Libscomb said.

The other woman attending the party, Stella Lindsey, told investigators she found Hernandez's wallet on the ground outside, Libscomb said.

Investigators found $1,600 on Julian's body; he had the money in his pocket, not the wallet.

According to Libscomb, both Clark and Lindsey picked Denson and Lowe out as the shooter in photo lineups. Hernandez's friend, Luis that was inside the motel room as well, was unable to give any help to find the killer; Libscomb did not seem enthusiastic about his testimony stating he doesn't expect Luis to be truthful when he takes the witness stand.

The defense's account of what happened that night mirrors the prosecution's up until the point when Lowe was sent away to get power cocaine.

Dominique Lowe's attorney public defender Ray Lakes said Lowe was there as a drug dealer not a killer.

"He was a drug supplier, we're not denying that," Lakes said during opening statements. Lakes claimed when Lowe returned to the room with the Cocaine he did not have Denson with him, he was alone.

He gave Mr. Hernandez the cocaine and there was a brief conversation.

"You're going to hear [on the phone recording] that Dominique leaves the room," Lakes claimed.

There is no evidence that Dominique Lowe participated in the robbery of Julian Hernandez beyond a reasonable doubt.

"Lowe knows he has to deal with the fact he went to the room that night to sell drugs, we're not denying that but he's not on trial for dealing drugs, he's on trial for murder," Lakes said.

Denson's attorney Tim Flournoy said he had evidence his client was not at the scene of the crime, making it impossible for Denson to be the triggerman.

Flournoy claimed all three witnesses that were inside the room lacked credibility due to their lifestyles and the information they gave investigators after the crime.

Hernandez-Aguires could not identify anyone in a photo lineup. Clark fled the scene because she was on probation and would say anything to clear herself; Lindsey was high on crack and her description of the killer does not match Denson, said Flournoy.

Denson was in a trailer park hanging out with some friends, you can't be in two places at one time, Flournoy said.

The trial resumes Friday morning.

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