The cousin of a 19-year-old woman killed in 2011 inside their shared Conway home testified Tuesday that he heard their front door being kicked in and then her scream for her boyfriend before two gunshots went off.
“I heard her scream his name twice,” testified Carlton Dontrell Watts, who was sleeping in a bedroom when Shaquille Pertelle was shot about 3 a.m. Nov. 8, 2011 in their mobile home outside of Conway off S.C. 548.
Watts also shared the home with Rodney McElveen, who had dated his cousin Pertelle for two or three years before her death, he said. The trio had lived in the home for about five months before the shooting.
“I heard the guys saying ‘Where’s it at? Where’s it at? We’re not playing. Where’s it at?’” Watts testified that he hid under his bed after hearing the loud boom of the door being kicked in and then gunshots.
Watts also said he saw two sets of sneakers walk into his bedroom, but he did not see the men that night.
But defense attorneys said the teen was killed not by the intruders, but by her boyfriend who fired his gun to protect himself and his property in the bedroom the couple shared.
Watts was the first person to testify Tuesday in the trial of two men accused of killing the teen that night.
A jury of eight women and six men, including two alternates were selected Monday to hear the case of Carnail Graham, 28, and Thomas Booker James, 25, both of Conway and each charged with murder in Pertelle’s death. On Tuesday, Circuit Court Judge Steven John excused one juror after that juror alerted authorities he knew some of the people involved in the case.
During her opening statements Nancy Livesay, an assistant 15th Circuit solicitor, told jurors that Pertelle was shot because she knew the men who invaded her home to rob her boyfriend that night. Pertelle was close friends with Graham’s girlfriend and she had met the men before.
Watts testified that Graham attended Pertelle’s funeral, but that he didn’t know James.
“When they busted in that door, she jumped up,” Livesay said of Pertelle, who had been sleeping or watching television on the couch in the living room of the home. “As soon as she saw them and could identify them, she was shot in the chest.”
“This is an important day for [Pertelle’s father] Ronnie Pertelle because his little girl was killed, unarmed and innocent in her own home,” Livesay said.
A third man, Keir Lamont Johnson, 24, of Myrtle Beach, also is charged in Pertelle’s shooting, but Johnson is not on trial this week. Livesay said she expects him to testify about what happened that night and identify Graham and James because Johnson was driving the getaway van.
That van was found in the yard of a woman whose cousin dated Graham and has two children with him, and was close friends with Pertelle, Tiffany Oliver testified Tuesday.
But defense attorney Bobby Frederick, who is representing James, told jurors that prosecutors are relying on misinformation about what happened that night and cellphone records will show James and Graham were not at the house when the shooting occurred.
Frederick said Johnson is a gang member and lied to police to protect his fellow gang members, who were involved in the shooting.
Evidence will show that the fatal shots came from McElveen’s gun, who was startled when Pertelle ran into the bedroom screaming about the men breaking into the home, Frederick said during his opening statements.
“He unloaded that gun,” Frederick said. “Their [State Law Enforcement Division] ballistic expert is going to tell you that the bullet that killed [Pertelle] was a .357-magnum.”
David Canty, who is representing Graham, told jurors that his client was about seven miles away when the shooting occurred and said cellphone records will corroborate his alibi.
“They have a mountain of objective evidence . . . not only does it not implicate Carnail Graham, it exonerates Carnail Graham,” Canty said during his opening statements. “It was a tragic accident. A tragic mistake in the dark. . . . Protecting [McElveen] his drugs and guns and money he may have accidentally shot her.”
Testimony resumes Wednesday.
Contact TONYA ROOT at 444-1723 or on Twitter @tonyaroot.