Another possible suspect discussed in Montgomery trial

Another possible suspect discussed in Montgomery trial

Demeatrius Montgomery now; Montgomery in 2007; Octavious Elmore

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by Cleve R. Wootson Jr., Gary L. Wright and Ely Portillo / Charlotte Observer

Charlotte Observer

Posted on August 26, 2010 at 9:11 AM

Updated Thursday, Aug 26 at 9:15 AM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- On the third straight day of surprises in the Demeatrius Montgomery trial, attorneys argued over the importance of another possible suspect in the 2007 killings of two Charlotte police officers -- a man who bears a striking resemblance to Montgomery.

Montgomery's attorneys say a Mecklenburg jail inmate told police that a man named Octavious Elmore confessed to the killings. The inmate also claimed he saw Elmore near the crime scene that night, the attorneys said.

They told the judge Wednesday they want to tell the jury about Elmore, but prosecutors argue the inmate's story clearly contradicts the facts of the case and therefore should not be allowed in the trial.

Superior Court Judge Forrest Bridges said he would rule later on prosecutors' motion to keep jurors from hearing about Elmore.

Jury selection began Wednesday. Attorneys questioned more than a dozen potential jurors, but none have been selected.

On Tuesday, Bridges ruled out the death penalty in the case, citing sloppy police work by a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department detective who testified he had thrown away notes from his investigation of the crime.

The issue of the second potential suspect is murky. Police arrested Demeatrius Montgomery 40 minutes after Officers Jeff Shelton and Sean Clark were shot at the Timber Ridge Apartments in east Charlotte, and they've said they were seeking no other suspects.

Elmore's name has emerged during discussions over what was in the notes discarded by Arvin Fant, a former detective who has been placed on leave.

Montgomery's lawyers say jail inmate William Richardson came forward and told Fant that he had seen Elmore near the crime scene that night. When he spoke to Elmore after the shootings, Richardson said that Elmore confessed, "I did it." Richardson also claimed that Elmore had a gun he said was the murder weapon.

Prosecutors called Richardson a "jailhouse snitch" who came forward hoping for a reduced sentence.

Assistant District Attorney Marsha Goodenow told the judge that authorities investigated Elmore and ruled him out as a suspect. She said the that gun authorities believe is the murder weapon had already been recovered when Elmore and Richardson talked.

Goodenow said Montgomery's DNA -- not Elmore's -- was found on the alleged murder weapon. She said ballistics tests show that the recovered weapon was the one used to kill the two officers.

Earlier Wednesday, prosecutors announced they would not appeal Bridges' ruling about the death penalty. Such an appeal, Goodenow said, could delay Montgomery's trial as long as 18 months - an unacceptable proposition for the victims' families, who have waited more than three years for Montgomery's trial.

Montgomery's attorneys also withdrew a motion to revisit whether their client is competent to stand trial. They met with the judge Wednesday, and Bridges reviewed doctors' reports before he concluded that Montgomery is competent.

Montgomery has said almost nothing to authorities, and hasn't said a word during the first three days of his trial. His attorneys have suggested he suffers from paranoid schizophrenia and say his silence has hurt their attempts to prepare a defense.

But Bridges concluded: "It is an intentional effort on his part to remain silent and not due to any mental illness."

Bridges called the case a "moving target" Tuesday. He said Fant's admission that he threw away and plagiarized notes has raised questions about the proceedings.

Montgomery's lawyers argue those notes might have included more information about Elmore.

A search of N.C. court records shows Elmore, 21, has been arrested repeatedly and is currently in prison for robbery. Some records spell his first name "Octavous" but list the same birthdate.

Records show Elmore was convicted in January 2007 of felony breaking and entering, larceny and receiving a stolen vehicle. But he was given probation and a suspended sentence. Court records suggest he was free at the time of the police killings.

Contacted late Wednesday, Elmore's grandfather, Larry Davis, said Elmore "had nothing to do with" the killings.

He said he believes Elmore was in prison then. But N.C. prison records show Elmore was not admitted until 2008.

Davis, 58, lives in the house on Barrington Drive listed on Elmore's court records. He said Elmore stayed over at the house occasionally. The house is a few blocks from where Clark and Shelton were killed.

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