GREENFIELD — The bullet that killed Shannon Kitchens passed through his chest, entering near his heart and exiting through his rib cage, leaving him with only minutes to live.
A pathologist with the Marion County Coroner’s office told jurors how the 55-year-old McCordsville native died as testimony continued Wednesday during the state’s trial against Damian Coleman, the Indianapolis man accused of killing him.
As the trial entered its second day Wednesday in Hancock Circuit Court, prosecutors continued their efforts to convince a jury that Coleman robbed and murdered Kitchens during a drug deal last spring, calling witnesses who offered insight on the investigation that took place after Kitchens’ body was found in 3300 block of West County Road 500N in March.
Police officers and other experts told jurors of the wallet, cellphone and other evidence they found near Kitchens’ body but not the bullet that killed Kitchens — a key piece of evidence Coleman’s defense attorney had warned jurors investigators weren’t able to find.
Investigators said they believe Kitchens was shot while trying to buy cocaine from Coleman, according to court documents. His body was then dumped alongside a country road in McCordsville, where a passerby spotted it and called police.
Coleman faces two counts of murder in the slaying; a Level 3 felony count of attempt to commit robbery while armed; a Level 3 felony count of attempt to deal cocaine; and a Level 3 felony count of conspiracy to deal cocaine.
On Wednesday morning, jurors heard from a woman who told investigators she passed a black sport-utility vehicle stopped along west County Road 500N, in the area where Kitchens’ body was found, on March 1.
Carrie Griffin told jurors she noticed two white men who seemed to be acting strangely while standing along the side of the road. Coleman is black.
One of the men, investigators say, was Shawn Hammons, Coleman’s co-defendant, a friend of Kitchens’ who recently accepted a plea deal for his part in the crime. On Tuesday, he testified that he was with Kitchens when he died and admitted to dumping the man’s body along a rural road. But it was Coleman who shot and killed him, Hammons said.
Griffin testified she made eye contact with one of the men, whom police later identified as Hammons, as she passed him. She said she nearly stopped to help, but the look Hammons gave her made her uneasy. She couldn’t recall much about the second man except that he appeared older, she said.
Two other drivers told jurors how they called 911 after driving by and spotting Kitchens’ body. Then, the team of Hancock County sheriff’s deputies who investigated Kitchens’ death, along with a forensic pathologist, took the stand one by one to tell jurors about what they discovered at the scene.
Much of what they said supported what Randy Sorrell, Coleman’s defence attorney, said during his opening statement Tuesday — that investigators can’t tie the murder to Coleman because they never found the bullet or gun that killed Kitchens.
Deputies testified that the magazine of a .40-caliber Smith and Wesson pistol — the same weapon officials believe was used to kill Kitchens — was found along west County Road 500N. The officers’ story matches one Hammons told jurors Tuesday, when he testified that he tossed the magazine out the window after leaving Kitchens’ body.
Deputies also told jurors that no bullet was located inside Hammons’ SUV when it was searched. A single shell casing was discovered, along with a hole in the inside of the passenger side door, which appeared to be created by a bullet; but investigators did not find a corresponding hole on the exterior of the door that would indicate a bullet exited the vehicle.
Pathologist did not find the bullet in Kitchens’ body or clothing, either, experts told jurors.
Public proceedings resume at 8 a.m. Thursday in Hancock Circuit Court.