AMITE — A teenage girl told a Tangipahoa Parish jury Tuesday that she called 911 in April 2012 after seeing the dead bodies of her mother and her mother’s boyfriend in a bed after she heard screaming and gunshots inside their Hammond apartment.
Tremeisha Matthews, 16, recounted the gory scene as the first-degree murder trial of Giles McGhee began at the Tangipahoa Parish Courthouse in Amite.
McGhee, 53, of Independence, is accused in the April 5, 2012, shooting deaths of Tamica Muse, 36, and Karum Smith, 39, while the couple was in bed at their apartment at 107 Mallard Drive, Hammond.
Muse was Matthews’ mother and used to date McGhee.
Prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty in the case. McGhee faces a mandatory life sentence without parole if convicted.
Family members of Muse became overwhelmed with emotion at several points in Tuesday’s proceedings, some leaving the room as pictures of the scene were shown to the jury.
McGhee and Muse had dated on and off for about six years, Matthews testified. They had lived together at the Mallard Drive residence but McGhee had moved out about a week before the killings.
Matthews, who was 14 at the time, testified that she was living with Muse and Smith at Mallard Drive. She said she was awakened by the sound of a man, who sounded like McGhee, yelling profanities.
When asked by Assistant District Attorney Jeff Johnson whether she was certain it was McGhee’s voice, Matthews testified, “Yes sir, I’m positive.”
Matthews said she then heard gunshots and a door slam.
Matthews opened her door and yelled for her mother but heard no response. She opened the door to her mother’s room and saw Muse and Smith covered in blood.
“She was just gone,” Matthews testified stoically.
Matthews said she grabbed her mother’s phone and called 911. She called her father, Patrick Matthews, on her own phone.
Officers found Smith still gasping for air, but medical personnel were unable to save him, Hammond Police Officer Daniel Boudreaux testified.
Patrick Matthews testified that his daughter called him in an absolute panic.
“She kept saying, ‘Daddy, daddy, please come get me,’ ” Patrick Matthews said.
Patrick Matthews testified he pressed his daughter on whether it was McGhee’s voice she heard before the gunshots.
“She said, ‘Yes daddy, I know his voice,’ ” Matthews said.
Matthews testified he called McGhee later that day and told him to surrender to authorities. He said McGhee laughed and denied any wrongdoing.
He said McGhee became quiet when he said Tremeisha was at the apartment at the time of the killings.
A detective then took phone, “and then he (McGhee) hung up,” Patrick Matthews testified.
Police found McGhee in Baton Rouge at his stepdaughter’s house later that day, said Johnson, the assistant district attorney, during his opening statement.
McGhee told his stepdaughter, “I did it, ‘Pow, pow,’ ” Johnson told jurors.
“No manslaughter here — cold, calculated killing,” Johnson said slowly.
Willis Ray, McGhee’s attorney, said in his opening statement that McGhee and Muse had lived together but split amicably.
Ray said McGhee was in Independence at the time of the killing. He told the jury that they likely won’t see any DNA evidence linking McGhee to the scene, nor any eyewitnesses nor weapon found at the scene.
Ray said the jury also likely won’t see any footprints in the house, even after a round of heavy thunderstorms that day.
“Someone committed this murder. We don’t believe that you’re going to see that it was Mr. McGhee,” Ray said.
State Police Crime Lab investigators took extensive photos and videos of the scene that showed Muse lying in the bed face up with blood-soaked sheets covering about half her body. Blood was caked on her face.
Investigators found at least three bullet casings from what appeared to be a .380-caliber handgun, said Mindy Buratt, a State Police Crime Lab technician who processed the scene.
Investigators also found a bullet hole in the pillow under Muse’s head, in addition to what appeared to be gunpowder residue, as well as bullet holes and blood on a pillow supposedly under Smith’s head.
Technicians swabbed the doorknobs on the apartment’s front door and the door for the bedroom where the couple was shot, Buratt said.
Buratt did not speak about whether the DNA swabs matched McGhee’s DNA. She said she is not a DNA analyst.
Technicians did not perform DNA testing or fingerprint checks on the bullet casings because those tests are usually worthless on a bullet that has been fired, Buratt said.
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