Grandmother of man on trial for murder in 2017 shooting testifies as alibi

Grandmother of man on trial for murder in 2017 shooting testifies as alibi

DANVILLE — A 25-year-old Danville man facing murder charges claims he has an alibi in the fatal shooting of a man who was convicted of killing his sister.

Latron Cross testified Wednesday in Vermilion County Circuit Court that he was at his grandma's house when the fatal shots were fired, killing Ollie Williams, who had been convicted in the 2013 shooting death of Latifah Cross.

The testimony of Latron Cross, who faces three counts of first-degree murder in the death of Mr. Williams, was backed up by his grandma Naomi Cross, who also testified Wednesday for the defense, telling jurors that her grandson came to the residence where she was staying in the Holiday Hills subdivision about 8:30 a.m. the day that Mr. Williams was shot and didn't leave until about 3 p.m.

Mr. Williams was gunned down while riding a bicycle shortly before 1 p.m. July 7, 2017, on Eastview, a side street leading into the Holiday Hills neighborhood, which is on Danville's northeast side. He was shot twice, once in the hip and another, fatal shot to his abdomen, according to evidence in the trial.

Vermilion County State's Attorney Jacqueline Lacy said in the trial's opening arguments that Cross drove up alongside Mr. Williams and shot him.

Mr. Williams had pleaded guilty to second-degree murder charges in the shooting death of Latron Cross' sister, whom police say was caught in the crossfire of two rival gangs on May 21, 2013. Williams was sentenced to six years in the Illinois Department of Corrections and was released from prison on June 16, 2017, less than a month before he was fatally shot.

According to testimony on the first day of the trial, Mr. Williams told the first Danville police officer on the scene that he was shot by Mr. Cross, who was arrested days later in a Chicago suburb at the residence of his girlfriend's sister.

Latron Cross' grandmother testified Wednesday that she tried to go to police in 2017 to give them her son's alibi, but police refused to speak with her.

In August of this year, she told an investigator for defense attorney Mike Mara that her son was at the house at the time of the fatal shooting.

In rebuttal, Lacy called back to the stand the lead investigator on the case, Danville detective Thomas Davis, who testified that he had no knowledge of Naomi Cross ever coming to the Danville Public Safety Building in 2017 to talk to police. And when Davis tried to interview her following her statement to the defense investigator, she would not cooperate with him, Davis told jurors.

Questioned about that during her own testimony on Wednesday, Naomi Cross said she refused to cooperate because police didn't want to talk with her the first time.

Cross' former girlfriend, Latina Jones, also testified Wednesday, telling jurors Cross had stayed with her in Georgetown the night before Mr. Williams was shot, and Cross left early that morning with her cellphone and her car. Police came to her house looking for him later that day and came again about 5:30 p.m.

Knowing police were looking for him, she said she eventually made contact with Cross, got her car back and headed for the Chicago area where she picked up Cross and took him to her sister's in a Chicago suburb. They parked the car in the garage and stayed the night. Law enforcement officials showed up the next morning, arrested Cross and confiscated the car as evidence.

Jones was later charged with obstructing justice in the case, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to probation, and on Wednesday, she testified as a witness for the prosecution.

Latron Cross told jurors on Wednesday that his cousin, Albert Gardner, borrowed his girlfriend's car about 10 a.m. the day of the fatal shooting, and he didn't get it back from him until much later that day, after the shooting of Mr. Williams. He testified that he knew police were looking for him by then, but he didn't try to contact police and eventually went to Chicago where his girlfriend picked him up to go to her sister's place.

Mr. Gardner could not be called to testify about having the car at the time of the shooting, because he was murdered June 16 in a double-fatal shooting at the Untouchables Motorcycle Club, 106 Commercial St., Danville. Danville police announced earlier this summer that they are looking for an 18-year-old, Deontae N. Bright of Danville, in connection with that fatal shooting.

The prosecution and the defense both wrapped up their cases Wednesday. They will give their closing statements this morning, and the case will go to jurors later in the day.

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