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Prosecutors Point To Gang Dispute As Bloomington Murder Trial Begins

Amari McNabb.png
David Proeber
The Pantagraph (Pool)
Amari McNabb is accused of shooting Juan Nash, 25, during a party on Orchard Road in Bloomington. McNabb's murder trial began this week.

The murder case against Amari McNabb centers on a beef between gang members over the death of a Bloomington man six months earlier, a prosecutor said Tuesday in opening statements at McNabb’s murder trial.

“April 2, 2019, was about revenge and retaliation for the gang, for the murder of one of their own,” prosecutor Aaron Fredrick told the jury in opening remarks.

McNabb is accused of shooting Juan Nash, 25, during a party on Orchard Road in Bloomington. The dispute, said Fredrick, centered on the death of Trevonte Kirkwood and the role Nash’s brother may have played in Kirkwood’s death.

“In gang culture, if you can’t get the person you want, you go after their family,” said Fredrick.

McNabb, together with Scotty Allen and Exodus Hebert, were “on a mission” the night of the party to settle a score, said Fredrick.

Allen is serving 50 years and Hebert received 20 years on murder charges.

Police collected 20 shell casings at the crime scene, according to the state, including 14 rounds allegedly fired by Nash.

The prosecutor predicted that jurors may hear from several reluctant witnesses with severe memory lapses when it comes to their recorded statements to police.

Before the trial opened on Tuesday, two witnesses who failed to respond to subpoenas on Monday were brought to the courtroom from the jail where they were being held on indirect civil contempt charges. Judge Casey Costigan ordered Nathaniel Caldwell and Michael Holton held until their testimony is completed.

In his five-minute opening statement, defense lawyer Edward Johnson challenged the state’s accusation that the three co-defendants plotted to kill Nash.

“There’s no evidence of a plan,” said Johnson.

Instead, the 25-year-old victim and 25 to 30 other people were enjoying a day of drinking, smoking marijuana and listening to music, said Johnson.

Things turned deadly after Nash, armed, drunk and under the influence of meth, became aggressive, said Johnson.

“There’s a quick draw” between Nash and Allen, the defense lawyer told jurors, that left Nash wounded.

Dressed in a gray suit and dark blue tie, McNabb sat between his two lawyers as the state opened its case.

Jurors heard from seven witnesses Tuesday morning, including Caldwell, who described being shot during the incident.

Caldwell, who arrived at the gathering around 6:30 p.m., described Nash as in “a party mood” on April 2, 2019.

Caldwell could not recall any of his previous statements to a Bloomington police detective about the links people at the party had to two street gangs. When asked why he did not want to be on the witness stand, Caldwell, responded, “because this is behind me.”

Caldwell did recall being shot three times in the leg, back and shoulder as he ran from the gunfire, adding he did not know who was firing the multiple shots he heard as he fled.

After the shooting stopped, Caldwell said he realized that Nash had taken his Chevy Tahoe. Caldwell’s vehicle was found several blocks away, crashed into the front of a woman’s home.

BPD patrolman Ryne Donovan testified that he responded to the crash scene on Wildwood Road where he found Nash “slumped back in the seat with absolutely no signs of life. He wasn’t breathing.”

A handgun was recovered from the front floorboard of the car, said Donovan.

The trial is expected to last at least five days.

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Edith began her career as a reporter with The DeWitt County Observer, a weekly newspaper in Clinton. From 2007 to June 2019, Edith covered crime and legal issues for The Pantagraph, a daily newspaper in Bloomington, Illinois. She previously worked as a correspondent for The Pantagraph covering courts and local government issues in central Illinois.
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