Officers who responded to deadly gender reveal party shooting take the stand
COLERAIN TOWNSHIP, Ohio (WXIX) - The second day in the trial of a murder-for-hire plot from a 2017 fake gender reveal party shooting saw Colerain officers take the stand.
Michael Sanon, 24, and James Echoles, 26, are two of the four men on trial facing numerous charges, including aggravated murder in connection with the shooting that killed Autumn Garrett.
Officer Andy McGuffey and now former officer Kurt Magoteaux were two officers who responded to the July of 2017 shooting at what investigators labeled a fake gender reveal party.
Magoteaux said Thursday that when he got to the home, it was very chaotic.
“When I was running up to the front door, the door opened up, and when I looked inside the house, it was the living room,” Magoteaux recalled. “It was people lying everywhere, screaming on the couch.”
Knowing he needed backup, Magoteaux said he radioed for assistance and McGuffey arrived moments later.
McGuffey said he found a gun at the scene.
“When I got there, I observed many shooting victims,” McGuffey explained. “I looked inside. Most of the victims were inside when we first got there. I observed a female that appeared to be deceased on the couch and several other victims that were pleading for help freaking out.”
During Wednesday’s opening arguments, Prosecuting Attorney Allison Oswall described what the state says happened before the officers arrived.
“There were about five kids that were on the floor and a few adults when, without notice or warning, the screen door snatched open, and these two men, James Echoles and James Sanon, entered the home and opened their firearms into the bodies of the people in the house,” Oswall said.
The party was hosted by Garrett’s cousin, Cheyanne Willis, who claimed she lost her child during the shooting, according to police. It was later determined Willis lied about being pregnant, police said.
Prosecutors say they think Willis was the actual target because she was in a relationship with a married man, Roshawn Bishop.
Witnesses told police at the time two men in hoods entered the home in a seemingly targeted attack, opened fire, and fled the scene.
Investigators said they think Echols and Sanon drove to the party with the intent of killing everyone inside, including Willis.
Two other people, Vandell Slade and Bishop, were also in the car with Echols and Sanon that day, police said.
The defense teams say Willis loaned Bishop $10,000 and told him to pay her back in a month.
The defense claims Bishop planned to use the money to buy drugs and flip them for a profit.
Towards the end of the 30 days, it became apparent to Willis that Bishop did not plan to return the money, the defense argued.
On Wednesday, the two defense teams said their clients are not guilty.
“We have the Federal Bureau of Investigation all investigating this case, and the state of Ohio doesn’t want you to put emphasis on this physical evidence because this physical evidence shows you Michael is not guilty,” claimed Sanon’s attorney, Brandon Fox.
Echols’ lawyer, Angela Glaser, echoed that statement during the opening arguments.
“Somebody should stand trial, not James during this trial; we will not be able to tell you who did this,” Glaser explained. “All we can tell you is James did not.”
The defense claims the person who had the motive to do the shooting was Bishop.
“Roshawn and Jeezy wanted to kill Cheyanne Willis. Why? Well, as the state just told you, Cheyanne had told Roshawn she was pregnant with his child. Roshawn was married. He had kids. He had a home with someone else,” the defense said.
Sanon and Echoles are due back in court on Tuesday at 9:30 a.m.
Both Bishop and Slade are facing charges of murder, felonious assault, and attempted murder.
Their trials have not started yet.
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