Death-penalty trial begins in Fawn Twp. double homicide
As he watched Paul Jackson Henry III point a .45-caliber gun at him, heroin dealer Foday Cheeks protected the teenage boy next to him, according to first assistant district attorney Jen Russell.
Cheeks, 31, was sitting on his living-room sofa when Henry and his now-dead wife burst into Cheeks' secluded Brown Road farmhouse in Fawn Township about 10 p.m. Sept. 13, 2016, Russell told jurors during her opening statement on Friday, May 11.
Cheeks got up to investigate and saw the gun-wielding Henry, prompting Cheeks to push the teen — the child of a visiting friend — out of the way before holding up his hands in a defensive posture, she said.
"(Henry) fires six times at Foday ... center mass," Russell said. She is jointly prosecuting Henry with District Attorney Dave Sunday.
Cheeks had just enough time to utter "Oh God" before falling to the ground with multiple wounds, state police have said.
Cheeks was shot seven times by those six bullets, one of which went through his hand before hitting him a second time, she told jurors.
But Henry wasn't done, according to the prosecutor.
Coup de gras: He and wife Veronique Henry, also a convicted heroin dealer, made the two adult women and two teenage boys in the living room get on the floor.
That's when Henry "dragged Foday from the kitchen into Foday's bedroom," Russell said. "There, he fires one last finishing shot into Foday's head."
Cheeks was the Henrys' second victim that night, she told jurors.
Their first victim was 26-year-old Danielle Taylor of Spring Grove, according to Russell.
Taylor, who had recently moved into Cheeks' home, was cooking in the kitchen when there was a knock on the back door, and she called out that she would answer it, the prosecutor said.
"Those were the last words that Danielle Taylor ever uttered," she said. "She's met with a gunshot immediately by the defendant."
Shot in the throat, Taylor dropped to the floor of the mudroom and was dead in moments, Russell said.
Taylor was so surprised she didn't even have time to drop her lit cigarette, which investigators later found burned but still between her fingers, according to Russell.
Alleged robbery: The Henrys robbed the surviving four people in the home of their cellphones and other items and also stole Cheeks' wallet before fleeing the scene, she told the jury.
Eyewitnesses who will testify at trial against Henry have previously testified that the Henrys demanded to know where the drugs were and searched the house for Cheeks' stash of heroin, but found none.
The survivors fled the home after the Henrys left and called state police from a nearby convenience store, according to Russell.
Area police were alerted to be on the lookout for the Henrys and their vehicle, and the next day a trooper spotted them. A chase ensued, during which Henry rammed a cruiser, and the chase ended when another trooper rammed Henry's car along Route 322 in Dauphin County, Russell said.
Inside the couple's car police found "critical evidence," Russell said, including a "mini arsenal" of guns and ammunition.
That evidence included a .45-caliber Colt Commander handgun that was a ballistics match for the bullets fired at Cheeks' home and which had Henry's DNA on it as well as Cheeks' DNA "splattered" on it, according to Russell.
A .38-caliber Smith & Wesson revolver found in the car also had Cheeks' DNA splattered on it, she said.
Henry's gray sweatshirt was seized from the car and had his DNA on the inside and Cheeks' DNA on the outside, Russell told jurors.
She said that after hearing the evidence, the jury would realize there is no doubt of Henry's guilt.
Defense blames wife: But attorney Farley Holt, who is jointly defending Henry with fellow attorney Suzanne Smith, told jurors it was Veronique Henry who "did all the shooting that night."
He said his client only pulled out a gun after Veronique Henry "emptied her gun" inside Cheeks' home.
"Foday Cheeks was nothing but a drug dealer," Holt said, and Veronique Henry was a drug addict who was "hooking up with people like Foday Cheeks." Holt maintains his client was trying to get his wife sober but wasn't successful.
Court records reveal Veronique Henry was a convicted heroin dealer.
Russell said the character of the victims isn't the issue.
"You are not here to judge Foday Cheeks or Danielle Taylor," she told jurors. "Whether they were good people or bad people."
On Friday, the prosecution called three state police troopers to the stand before presiding Common Pleas Judge Michael E. Bortner adjourned for the day.
Prosecution testimony will resume at 9:30 a.m. Monday, May 14.
Death penalty: Henry, 41, of East Manchester Township, is charged with two counts each of first-, second- and third-degree murder, plus robbery. He also is facing trial on charges of aggravated assault, fleeing police and related offenses for the alleged police chase.
If jurors convict Henry of first-degree murder, prosecutors will ask them to impose the death penalty.
Veronique Henry, 32, hanged herself in her prison cell a day after being committed to York County Prison.
At the time of his death, Cheeks was free on $25,000 bail, charged with two felony counts of dealing heroin. The York County Drug Task Force raided his home in May 2016 and seized heroin and packaging materials, according to court documents.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.