His words bubbling up as tears began to fall, Tyrone Robinson told a jury he spent Sept. 1, 2012, running for his life.
Aaron Young Sr. and Aaron Young Jr. "wanted blood and they wanted death and they did not stop until they got blood and they got death," Robinson, 39, told 14th Circuit Solicitor Duffie Stone on the third day of testimony in his murder trial Thursday.
Robinson had spent the last hour and 20 minutes delivering and defending his story of what happened the day Khalil Singleton, 8, was killed by a stray bullet as he played on Hilton Head Island's Allen Road.
Tears streamed down Robinson's face.
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"What are you crying for?" Stone asked, his voice raised. "Are you crying for Khalil or are you crying for yourself?"
Robinson answered, "For Khalil and for my family," but the solicitor dismissed him with a wave of his hand. He asked nothing further of Robinson.
CASE GOES TO JURY FRIDAY
On Friday, Stone and defense attorney Arie Bax will deliver their closing arguments, and the jury is expected to render its verdict. Robinson is charged with murder, second-degree burglary and pointing a firearm at another person, though he testified Thursday he was not responsible for Singleton's death.
In fact, he claimed he never even fired a shot on Allen Road.
On the day Singleton was killed, Robinson said, he was on his way to buy beer with Jontu Singleton Sr., who asked him to drive by the Youngs' Old Wild Horse Road home to borrow some money. Robinson said he hadn't wanted to go because of their past disagreements, and stayed in his green Acura sedan until Young Sr. approached him screaming profanities.
Young Jr. and two other men were also present, he said, and fearing for his safety, he leaned out of his car and fired warning shots from a revolver into the air and ground.
As he sped away from the home, Robinson says he heard a shot hit his car. He briefly stopped at a cousin's home on Oakview Road, but crossed paths with the Youngs again. This time, Robinson testified, Young Jr. leaned half way out of their gray Ford F-150 and fired shots into the back of his car with his semi-automatic pistol.
Robinson said that once on Allen Road, he hid his car, walked to his cousin Charlese Mitchell's home and then heard a round of shots that sent him ducking behind the structure. When he looked up, the defendant says, the occupants of the gray pickup truck were firing shots at his car. Robinson says it sounded like a machine gun and another pistol.
Bax asked Robinson why he then went to Bryant Road, threw his gun behind his friend's home and washed his hands with vinegar. Robinson answered that he is a convicted felon, and said he could not confront law enforcement with a gun in his pocket and gunpowder on his hands.
Robinson turned to face the jury, imploring them to believe he did not fire a gun after leaving Old Wild Horse Road. He also claimed he never owned a lead bullet, the kind a forensic pathologist recovered from Khalil Singleton.
He had only five copper-alloy metal jacket bullets, and one was found inside the wall of the Youngs' neighbor's home.
"I swear to God on my granddaddy's grave," Robinson said. "I don't know who killed my cousin Khalil but I didn't kill that boy."
In Stone's cross-examination, the prosecutor argued Robinson has changed his story since Sept. 1, 2012, when he told investigators he physically fought with Young Sr. after the man would not sell him a quarter ounce of cocaine. Robinson tried to show deputies his swollen knuckles, Stone noted.
His words spilling out faster as the cross-examination continued, Robinson maintained that failed drug deal happened months ago, but was the source of bad blood between him and the Youngs. He said he kept things brief for the deputy he approached on Allen Road, so the officer would act quickly to find who was responsible for killing Khalil.
"You remember your cousin's name today?" Stone said. "When you were asking about your cousin at the police station, you couldn't even remember his name."
The child's mother, Katrina, nodded. His father, Kareem, briefly left the courtroom.
Bax, however, called several witnesses to try to counter the state's case. One was Khalil's cousin, Jontu Singleton Jr., who told deputies on Sept. 1, 2012, he saw Robinson "shooting at my best friend."
The 9-year-old boy testified Thursday that he did not see who shot Khalil. After his cousin fell to the ground, he saw Robinson standing next to their relative's house and thought the man must have fired the shots.
"I don't think he did it on purpose," Jontu Singleton Jr. said. "Yeah, he didn't do it on purpose."
Later, Bax presented a transcript of statements Young Sr. made in court in April during the first attempted trial for the three men.
In his cross examination, Young Sr. said he made up the story of the shoot-out on Allen Road because Beaufort County Sheriff's Office investigators Doug Seifert and Bob Bromage promised to help him.
"I pretty much knew the story wouldn't make any sense," Young Sr. told Stone, according to the transcript. "I figured they would go and do their own investigation and see the story didn't make any sense at all, so I was comfortable giving them things they wanted to hear."
Bax also re-questioned several investigators about their interviews with the Youngs. Judge Thomas Cooper Jr. said presenting that information in court Thursday would not automatically make their statements admissible in their forthcoming trial. Charged with murder, the Youngs will go to court in November.
Their attorneys, Roberts Vaux and Robert Ferguson, plan to argue the men were coerced to speak and bring investigators to their semi-automatic pistol.
Both Youngs told investigators Bromage and Laurel Albertin they heard three shots as they left Allen Road, passing by children playing, they said Thursday.
That was part of the lie, Young Sr. told Stone in court in April.
Questioned by Bax, Bromage recalled other statements Young Sr. had made.
Young Sr. said he would have killed Robinson on Oakview Road if he'd had the chance, Bromage said.
He also said he wished he'd never gone to Allen Road.
Follow reporter Rebecca Lurye on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Rebecca.
- Bullet that killed Khalil Singleton on Hilton Head Island not from rivals' gun, expert says, September 17, 2014
- Interrogation, 911 calls played on 2nd day of Robinson's murder trial, September 16, 2014
- Jury seated in first day of Robinson murder trial, September 15, 2014