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Trial begins in fake gender reveal party shooting that killed woman in 2017

Published: Jan. 12, 2022 at 5:40 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 13, 2022 at 8:53 AM EST
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COLERAIN TOWNSHIP, Ohio (WXIX) - The trial in a murder-for-hire plot from a 2017 fake gender reveal party shooting began Wednesday with defense teams arguing there is no evidence that points to their suspects committing the crime.

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.

“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,” Prosecuting Attorney Allison Oswall said Wednesday.

The shooting happened in July of 2017 at what investigators labeled a fake gender reveal party.

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.

Echols and Sanon will be back in court on Thursday.

Both Bishop and Slade are facing charges of murder, felonious assault and attempted murder.

Their trials have not started yet.

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