Murder trial begins in '09 shooting death


by CLAIRE McNEILL / The Charlotte Observer

Posted on July 2, 2012 at 10:59 PM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Quinton Osborne and Jonathan Nelson called each other brothers.

They were cousins, and they lived together until Nelson was shot and killed on Nov. 19, 2009.

The man accused of killing Nelson is on trial this week at the Mecklenburg County Courthouse. Tahashi Matthews, 35, is charged with first-degree murder, two counts of attempted armed robbery and possession of a firearm by a felon.

If convicted of first-degree murder, he would be sentenced to life without parole.

Mecklenburg Assistant District Attorney Benjamin Royster, during his opening remarks Monday, told jurors that Osborne, then 22, and Nelson, 18, were hanging out in Osborne’s car at their University-area apartment complex. It was about 11 p.m.

“Tragically for Mr. Osborne, Mr. Nelson and their families, the defendant came into their lives that night,” the prosecutor said.

Osborne, the first prosecution witness, told jurors that he noticed a stranger with a ski cap across the parking lot. The stranger, he said, walked away.

A few minutes later, Osborne recalled, the door was yanked open.

He said a man wearing a ski mask fired twice, shouted vague demands and continued shooting as Osborne sped away.

“By the time we reached the edge of the neighborhood, my brother wasn’t responsive anymore,” Osborne recalled. Nelson died that night.

Asked to identify who attacked them, Osborne pointed at Matthews.

Police officers testified they responded to a call about 11:30 p.m. from an off-duty officer who heard glass breaking and saw a car screeching away from the apartment complex without headlights on. That car was Osborne’s as he raced to the hospital.

Witness Jerry Falwell told jurors that he picked up Matthews after his friend called for a ride. He said Matthews was running when he picked him up.

Officers responding to the call pulled Falwell and Matthews over after he turned off his headlights while driving. Matthews consented to being searched, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Officer Nathan Watkins testified. Police found a ski mask in Matthews’ pocket, he said.

Defense attorney Terry Sherrill, in his opening remarks, urged jurors to remain open-minded. “The theory of our defense is that things did not happen the way they’re contending they happened,” he said.

“It seems it would be a very straightforward case,” he said. “It’s more than just my client and a ski mask. There was an encounter that night, but how that encounter transpired is the question.”

The trial is expected to run through the end of the week.