Eyewitness says she watched Henry fatally shoot Fawn Twp. man
Double homicide eyewitness Amy Eller told jurors that she, her 14-year-old son and her son's friend were all sitting in Foday Cheeks' living room when Cheeks got up and headed to the kitchen to investigate a loud pop that sounded like a firecracker.
"He didn't make it around the corner," she testified in York County Court on Monday, May 14.
Eller, of Maryland, told jurors she watched as defendant Paul Jackson Henry III came into view and repeatedly shot Cheeks.
Cheeks, 31, held up his empty hands in a defensive position and said, "Oh God, no," according to Eller, who described herself as Cheeks' friend and former girlfriend.
"I think Foday tried to get away from him, and (Henry) shot him again," she testified, adding that Henry's wife, Veronique Henry, came into view behind her husband after the shooting started.
"That's when she told us to get on the ground," Eller said. "She had me and the kids on the ground at gunpoint."
Another visitor to Cheeks' home, Coren Clymer, hid behind curtains in the living room when the shooting started, according to Eller, who said the Henrys might not have known Clymer was there.
Dragged: Eller testified she then saw Henry grab the mortally wounded Cheeks and drag him out of view.
"After that I couldn't see them anymore," she said.
By the time Henry shot Cheeks in the victim's Brown Road farmouse in Fawn Township, a young woman who was living with Cheeks at the time — 26-year-old Danielle Taylor — was already dead, according to first assistant district attorney Jen Russell.
During opening statements Friday, May 11, Russell told the jury that the Henrys knocked on Cheeks' back door and that Henry fatally shot Taylor through the throat when she opened the door.
Henry, 41, of East Manchester Township, is charged with two counts each of first-, second- and third-degree murder, plus robbery. He's also charged with fleeing police and aggravated assault for a police chase the next day that ended with the Henrys being arrested.
He is standing trial alone because his wife and co-defendant, Veronique Henry, 32, hanged herself in York County Prison the day after they were captured.
How it started: Eller said she, her son and his friend went to Cheeks' home so she could do her son's laundry there on Sept. 13, 2016.
While there, Cheeks' phone rang and he asked her to answer it, Eller testified, adding it was a woman named Veronique on the line, saying she needed to stop by to pay Cheeks money she owed him.
"He told her if she didn't have his money, don't come by," Eller recalled.
It was about half an hour later that the Henrys knocked on Cheeks' back door, she said.
After Henry fatally shot Cheeks, Henry and his wife asked Eller where Cheeks kept his drugs and money, and Veronique Henry held Eller and the boys at gunpoint while Henry ran upstairs and downstairs, searching the place, according to Eller.
"She told us just to lay on the ground and everything would be OK — that they wouldn't kill the kids," Eller testified. "She kind of whispered to us ... that he's not going to hurt us."
Spoke to Eller: At one point, Henry addressed Eller directly while pointing a gun at her, according to Eller.
"He told me I was a piece of s— for having my kids at a heroin dealer's house," she told jurors.
Before the Henrys fled, Henry instructed his wife to collect the cellphones of Eller and the boys, according to Eller. The Henrys also stole Eller's purse with her wallet, cash and medicine inside, she said.
But they missed a phone, Eller said — one of Cheeks' phones, apparently.
"I kicked it underneath the couch in case I could get the chance to call 911," she told jurors.
That's the phone Eller said she used to call 911 after she, the teenage boys and Clymer fled the house. They drove to a nearby convenience store and waited for state police to arrive, according to her testimony.
Went out front door: Eller said she, the boys and Clymer left about five minutes after the Henrys did. She told jurors the Henrys instructed them to wait 20 minutes, then go out the front door, according to Eller, apparently because Taylor's body was at the back door.
During her testimony, Eller said Cheeks and her son were very close, like stepfather/stepson.
He's the teen that Russell spoke about during her opening statement. On Friday, Russell told jurors that Cheeks pushed the teen out of the way of the gun-wielding Henry.
Cheeks was shot seven times by Henry during the inital gunfire, according to Russell, who is trying the case with York County District Attorney Dave Sunday.
Henry then dragged Cheeks to another room and fired "one last finishing shot into Foday's head," Russell said on Friday.
Veronique Henry was a convicted heroin dealer. It's unclear whether the jury will be told that, or told that she committed suicide. Or whether they'll even be told she's dead.
Defense attorney Farley Holt, representing Henry jointly with attorney Suzanne Smith, mentioned during his opening statement that five people in the house at the time of the homicides are still alive.
He spent most of Monday afternoon cross-examining Eller, trying to point out inconsistencies in her testimony. At one point, Common Pleas Judge Michael E. Bortner admonished Holt, saying he was improperly trying to impeach Eller's credibility.
If jurors convict Henry of first-degree murder, prosecutors will ask them to impose the death penalty.
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.