Phone analyst and deputy testify in 2018 murder trial

Published: Mar. 31, 2022 at 10:13 PM EDT
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COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - Testimony continued as the jury was presented with a timeline of events thanks to cell phone records collected by authorities.

Detective Robert Nicholas is the lead detective on this case. Nicholas testified that the time of death was between 9:45 p.m. and 10 p.m.

Nicholas said that time was determined based on one of the unlocked phones found inside the victim’s car.

That phone indicated activity as early as 9:44 p.m.

During today’s testimony, Sandra Hickey, with the Columbus Police Department, discussed the phone towers each suspect’s cell phone pinged off the night of the murder.

“You cannot definitively place any of them at the Pizza Hut?” asked Defense Attorney Shevon Thomas, to which Hickey responded, “That’s correct.”

During her testimony, Hickey said search warrants were obtained for each suspects’ phone. The evidence she presented indicates multiple suspects’ cell phone pinged off certain cell phone towers simultaneously.

However, Hickey made it clear that those pings do not determine their exact location at any point that night.

A detective with the Columbus police wrapped up testimony today in the case involving the murder of Branden Denson.

Wednesday, the state’s star witness, Eric Spencer, admitted to lying under oath.

Today, the jury heard from the deputy who claimed Spencer said something to him after the witness recanted his testimony.

Before the trial, Spencer accepted a plea deal. He said he was at the crime scene with Jonathan Swift, Tyree Smith and Dover Coppins.

He claimed he only knew about a plan to use counterfeit money to buy marijuana from the victim.

He said Tommie Mullins was the mastermind. Swift was the driver of the getaway car. Smith stole the marijuana, and Coppins was the shooter. Then, he changed his story, saying none of the suspects were with him that night.

Today, a deputy testified about Spencer’s comment outside the courtroom.

“As I was standing there getting ready to get him transported out of the hallway, he made the utterance of ‘I have a $100k hit on my head,” said Deputy Bayse Bourne.

Spencer also claimed that he felt threatened by the victim’s family. However, Bourne said there was no actual contact between the victim’s family and Spencer since the start of the trial.

The judge has denied all requests to strike Spencer’s statement. So it’s now up to the jury to decide which testimony of his is true. The trial will resume Friday at 9:30 a.m., and it sounds like closing arguments will begin as well.

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