Closing arguments heard in first-degree murder trial

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

By Karen Hall and

Poppy Hall

Staff Writers

As the Tribune went to press Tuesday, closing arguments were being heard in the case of Sharod Moore, who is charged with the first-degree murder of Ronald Shelton on Jan. 29, 2011.

Last week, in addition to testimony from law enforcement, ambulance personnel, and experts from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Crime Lab, the jurors heard from friends and neighbors of the victim and the accused.

They also heard from Jason McCollum, 30, who was allegedly with Moore that night and is accused of being directly, or indirectly, responsible for Shelton's death.

McCollum testified he and Moore went and knocked on Shelton's door at the Old Fox Motel and spoke with him. McCollum asked Shelton for a cigarette and Shelton reached for it behind the door before being shot. McCollum said the door was open at the time.

Following the shooting, McCollum and Moore walked to McCollum's house at the corner of 7th Avenue South and West Commerce Street where he lived with his mother, his fiancée Heather, and their son.

McCollum testified that Moore held a gun to his head and threatened to "kill everybody in the house" if he did not do what he was told. Moore then handed McCollum a bag of clothes to dispose of and asked for mustard. Moore rubbed his hands and arms up to the elbows with the mustard, washed it off, and the repeated the process, in what he said was an attempt to remove any gun powder residue.

According to McCollum, the two spent the rest of the night in the house without speaking to each other. At 5:45 a.m., when the police change shifts, Moore left. McCollum testified that he told Heather that he had to "get rid of something otherwise he would be in a lot of trouble." Presumably this was when McCollum took the bag of clothes somewhere and burned them. Evidence of this was never found, even though McCollum led police to the location to look for this evidence.

In the days following the murder, McCollum testified he hold his mother and brother at separate times that he "had killed Ron," but clarified to the court his reason for saying that was because "he felt responsible because he could not stop it and felt terrible about it." McCollum became visibly upset whenever he talked about Shelton, who was his neighbor and whom he had known and liked for over five years. When pressed further about his statement to his mother and brother, McCollum again said, "My choice of words was not good. It made me feel horrible even though I did not kill that man."

Also called to the witness stand was Victoria Cordova, who has been a Lewisburg resident for 10 years and lives in the neighborhood of the Old Fox Motel. Cordova testified she had known McCollum for seven years and had known Moore by sight for five years.

Cordova said on the day of the murder she had a quarrel with her fiancé, and walked over to her mother's house. Later that night on her way home she passed the Old Fox Motel and saw the police cars, flashing lights, and a small crowd of on lookers. Cordova also knew Shelton and where he lived and somebody in the crowd told her, "Ron got shot."

Cordova walked on to McCollum's house to rent a movie from his mother. Cordova told the court that Moore and McCollum were standing outside the house. She told them Ron had been shot and both Moore and McCollum said they were sad to hear that.

When asked about how the defendant and McCollum were acting that night, Cordova said Moore was very quiet and fidgety and McCollum was very nervous and pacing the room. At the time it did not occur to her to connect the two men's attitude with the event at the Old Fox Motel. But Cordova did say McCollum and asked her two weeks before the murder if she knew where he could get a gun.

The prosecution rested its case when court reconvened at 9 a.m. Monday, and then it was the turn of defense attorney Melissa Thomas to call witnesses.

The first was another resident of the Old Fox Motel and casual friend of Shelton's who was awakened by the three gunshots, and later by the flashing lights of the police cars and ambulance.

"Did you see Mr. Moore at all?" asked Thomas.

"No, ma'am," he replied.

"Or hear running footsteps or a car starting?"

"No, ma'am."

The next witness was McCollum's half brother. They share the same mother, but have a different father, and this young man was adopted as a toddler. He said McCollum talked about the murder two or three times with him, always when he had too much to drink, and he was always crying and upset.

"Did he place my client at the scene?" asked Thomas.

"Yes, ma'am," replied the witness.

"Was your brother a gang member?" asked Assistant District Attorney Eddie Barnard when it was his turn to question the witness.

"Yes."

"Did you know Sharod Moore was a gang member?" Barnard continued.

"Yes sir, they would have meetings over there at the house."

"They would have Vice Lord gang meetings at that residence?" Barnard asked, referring to the house near the Old Fox Motel, and again the answer was "yes."

Additional questions revealed the witness saw Moore giving orders at the meetings, as well as using secret handshakes and signs.

McCollum's half brother said he heard about Shelton's murder several days later, and "wondered if my brother or the Vice Lords had anything to do with it."

"Did he tell you who ordered the hit?" asked Barnard.

"Yes sir, it was Sharod Moore," said the witness, pointing out Moore at the defense table.

In his closing argument before the lunch break Tuesday, Barnard told the jury Moore was a Ghost Vice Lord, in other words, high up in the organization, and ordered the hit because Shelton had beaten up his (Moore's) mother.

Testimony was heard Monday afternoon from Jason's wife, Heather McCollum, who is currently incarcerated after being found guilty of the murder of John Poteete. However, all of this was eventually stricken from the record and jury members were told to disregard it.