Accused testifies in murder trial

Accused testifies in murder trial

DANVILLE — On the morning that three Danville residents were shot to death in an east-side apartment, one of the accused killers said he was at his home, sleeping and showering.

Later that morning, Jerome Harris said, he left to make a couple of drug deals before heading to his mother's home.

Harris took the stand to testify in his own defense on Monday, the fifth day of his jury trial in Vermilion County Circuit Court.

The 29-year-old Danville resident faces 15 counts of first-degree murder in the March 25, 2007, deaths of Madisen Leverenz, 19, Ta'Breyon "TuTu" McCullough, 21, and Rodney "Face" Pepper, 30, who were fatally shot at Mr. Pepper's apartment at 1707 E. Main St. in an attempt at recovering stolen drugs.

In December 2012, Freddell L. "Freddy Moe" Bryant of Chicago was convicted in U.S. District Court in Urbana of three counts of using a firearm during a drug-trafficking crime and causing the death of all three victims. He is serving three consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole in a federal prison in Florida.

Harris is currently serving 25 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections on multiple drug convictions. If convicted of the murders, he could receive a mandatory life sentence.

The trial is set to continue today and wrap up later this week.

Under questioning by his attorney, Public Defender Jacqueline Lacy, Harris admitted that in March 2007, he sold drugs, which he bought from multiple sources. Though one of those sources was Bryant, Harris said he didn't work for Bryant, whom he had just met that year, or Bryant's brother, Marshall Johnson.

Harris said that around 1 or 2 a.m. on March 25, 2007, he returned to one of the three homes he rented in Danville to go to sleep.

"I was out drinking, selling drugs," he said.

He said he woke up around 7:30 a.m. when he got a phone call from his mother, who wanted to use his car. He laid back down and went to sleep for another 1 to 1 hours when two women stopped by his house. Then he got in the shower.

Around 9:30 a.m., he returned a call he'd gotten and arranged a drug deal with Deborah Plummer, "someone I sold drugs to."

Harris then testified that he and his cousin, Milan Alexander, met Plummer at her house on South Park Street. After he sold her drugs, he said he bought a car radio from her. He removed the radio from the car, scraping his right hand in the process.

Then, shortly after 10 a.m., he went to the I & I Steakhouse to meet another woman.

"I sold her some drugs, and she paid me some money she owed me," he said.

Harris said he went back to Danville about a half-hour later. He stopped by his house on Indiana Street and then went to his mother's.

Earlier, Harris told Lacy that March 25 was a significant day for him because his grandmother had died on that day in 2003, and his family usually got together to remember her.

Also, while on the stand, Harris acknowledged sharing a jail or prison cell with Albert Britt, Richard Bell and James Mosely. But he denied ever admitting to them that he killed any of three victims, something the three men testified to last week.

Harris also denied asking Bell to kill Ashley Brown, a prosecution witness who told police she saw Harris walking away from the apartment after hearing people arguing and then four gunshots. During his testimony, Bell also said Harris asked him to get rid of Brown.

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