Closing arguments debate differing timelines

"And now we put you together to say what happened July 6."

Those were the words of 16th Judicial Circuit Solicitor Barbara Morgan to the jury as closing arguments began in the murder trial of William Allen Owens.

Jurors heard from court appointed Barnwell defense attorney Tim Moore Jr. and Morgan Dec. 4.

Morgan said the prosecution did not seek the death penalty for Owens because  state law requires additional circumstances to be present in a murder such as burglary.

Morgan presented a timeline and a summary of witnesses that placed Owens and his truck at the boat landing the evening of  July 6, 2007  for the shooting death of Phillip McCreary.

Morgan then cited testimony where Owens told his former girlfriend, Reneee McKinney, that "he just blew a black man's head off and threw him in the river," the night of the shooting.

McKinney feared for both her life and her childrens' lives if she told anyone, she said in testimony.

McKinney, 33, of Pittsville, Md., was initially charged with murder, but her charge was later reduced to accessory after the fact of murder. 

McKinney testified Dec. 2 there was blood speckled on Owens' shoe and shirt the night of the shooting.

The People-Sentinel played a small part in the Dec. 3 testimony, Morgan said after the trial.

On July 7, 2007, family members - including Owens' mother and his cousin, Susan Lucado - overheard Owens arguing on the phone with McKinney.

Later, Lucado said Owens told her, her mother and another relative that he had killed a black man and threw him in the river.

Owens said he knew the black man was a preacher because he had taken his wallet and burned it in a frying pan.

The next day, Lucado and Owens' mother went to the Savannah River to see if Owens was telling the truth.

Since the two went to the Savannah River - not the Edisto - there was no trace of a murder or a police investigation.

Until the July 11 edition of  The People-Sentinel when an article about the murder hit the newsstands that Lucado saw and everything clicked.

Lucado - and her father - contacted the Barnwell County Sheriff's Office shortly afterwards, said Morgan.

It was that incident - as well as a composite drawing  from Robert Williams who saw Owens at the fishing hole July 6 - that were the first breaks in the case, said Morgan.

Morgan also said evidence - catawba worms - was given to McCreary by Williams at the fishing spot and later found at Owens' home.

Morgan pressed home that forensic evidence by Dr. Janice Ross of the Newberry Pathologists Associates pointed to McCreary being shot at close range.

The gun was three to four inches from McCreary's head when it was discharged, Ross said.

"He was executed," said Morgan bluntly.

Shortly after the prosecution rested, Moore began the closing arguments for defense. by stating there were "two sides to every story."

He said no physical or DNA evidence linked Owens to McCreary's murder.

A police search of Owens' truck and house found no evidence which linked Owens to the murder.

Moore also displayed a different timeline during his closing argument.

Based on phone records and  prosecution testimony from McKinney and her sister, Gina Sweat, Owens was home when Blackville resident Troy O' Neal Jamison said he had heard a gunshot fired while he was baling hay.

Moore said law enforcement didn't fully look into a lead supplied by McCreary's son in which a reputed drug dealer could have been involved in the shooting.

"Who executes people around here? asked Moore during the closing argument. "Drug dealers," he answered.

McCreary was known for his anti-drug stance in the community and his work with young people.

Moore's closing argument also focused on jewelry which was found with McKinney's belongings that were not tested for DNA evidence.

Annie McCreary said the jewelry was her husband's - and Morgan called the finding of it "divine intervention," but Moore said during the closing argument the jewelry was not tested for DNA evidence.

"Testing for DNA is not as simple as some of those television shows make it," Morgan said after the trial, noting the evidence had been contaminated.

After the verdict, Moore said it had been an emotional trial and he respected the decision of the jury.

Moore said he knows many of the people at the Macedonia Baptist Church in Blackville where McCreary was an associate pastor.

McCready taught adult Sunday school and Wednesday night Bible study at the Blackville church.

His funeral was attended by more than 700 mourners at the Blackville-Hilda High School auditorium July 13, 2007.