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Family member, investigators recount 2014 murder of Woodleaf neighbor

 

SALISBURY — Through teary-eyes, Sha’Heem Gray recounted Tuesday how he pleaded with his uncle not to die on the day he was shot after a dispute with a neighbor three years ago.

Rowan County authorities say the uncle, 39-year-old Kerry Gray, was fatally shot by Destin Sloan after they argued on July 13, 2014. The shooting occurred in the driveway of Sloan’s Maria Lane home, not far from Gray’s home at 185 Deb St., also in Woodleaf.

Sloan’s baby was in his house at the time of the shooting, authorities say. After the shooting, according to witnesses who testified Tuesday, Sloan took the child to the mother’s home.

On the first day of Sloan’s trial Tuesday, Sha’Heem Gray testified that he knelt beside his uncle after the shooting, placed his hand on his back and said, “Stay with us.” When he saw his uncle take his last breath, Sha’Heem — who was 18 at the time — said he went to his mother’s house to tell her what happened.

Gray said he was in such shock that he didn’t recall speaking with a detective shortly after the murder. He read his statement to investigators in court but said he still doesn’t remember saying all of it. The younger Gray called the incident traumatic and said he’d never experienced or witnessed the death of anyone.

Sha’Heem said he heard the gunshots but didn’t see them because after a warning shot, he took his child back inside the house and hid the child behind a couch. He returned outside once the shooting stopped.

Jurors heard from Cooleemee Police Sgt. Brent Cranford, who initially responded to River Park at Cooleemee Falls because authorities believed that was where the shooting occurred. Cranford said on the stand that he soon realized the shooting was on Maria Lane, which he estimated to be about 300 yards away.

Cranford said although he did not check Gray, he believed he was dead because he called out to him and got no response. Cranford said he did not check Gray’s pulse.

When Cranford arrived, Sloan had not yet returned, the officer said. Cranford and Rowan County Sheriff’s Master Deputy Justin Nelson put crime scene tape around the perimeter of the property. Nelson arrived shortly after Cranford.

Nelson testified that he also did not check to make sure Gray was dead. Both Cranford and Nelson said they did not collect evidence or interview witnesses but secured the scene.

Joseph “Bubba” Gregory, who usually works in 911 communications, was at the scene as a volunteer firefighter. He volunteers for both the Cleveland and Woodleaf fire departments.

Gregory declared Gray dead after checking for a pulse on his neck, arm and ankle. He had another firefighter confirm that Gray was dead. He told the court that lifesaving measures would have been futile.

When Sloan returned to the scene, he approached Gregory and asked if he could park his car in his driveway. Gregory said officers were trying to get his attention to tell him that Sloan was the suspect they were looking for.

Gregory said he told Sloan he needed to talk to an officer. As Gregory walked away, he said, he saw a handgun lying in the front seat of Sloan’s vehicle. Sheriff’s Deputy Michael Dixon was working as a part-time patrol officer for the Cleveland Police Department. Dixon kept a crime scene log, monitoring who entered and exited.

Sloan’s attorney, Darrin Jordan, asked Dixon if Sloan had spoken to him about Kerry Gray “coming at him.”

“That dude came to my house trying to fight. He tried to take my gun. I did what I had to do,” Sloan said, according to testimony.

A former neighbor, Michael Jenkins, who now lives on the coast, said he video-recorded part of the confrontation between Sloan and Gray. Jenkins said he saw the fight while standing at his front door. When the argument seemed to escalate, Jenkins began recording it.

Jenkins said he heard and saw Sloan fire a warning shot into the ground, but from his vantage point he could not see the entire confrontation. He heard the two men arguing and heard three to four more gunshots. He said Gray and Sloan were behind a dumpster in a cul-de-sac at the mobile home park.

Jenkins said he saw Sloan and Gray with baseball bats, and Sloan went back into his residence and returned with a handgun. Gray kept telling Sloan to put the gun down and fight like a man, Jenkins testified.

“It’s clear he wanted to fistfight?” asked Assistant District Attorney Tim Gould.

Jenkins said yes.

Jordan asked Jenkins a series of questions, and Jenkins admitted that his statement to detectives, his testimony in court and the video he shot didn’t completely match. Jenkins told Rowan Sheriff’s Detective Ollie Greene that the two men grabbed each other. But he said on the stand that Gray slapped the gun away and the two men never touched one another.

The trial, which is expected to last through the end of the week, will resume at 9:30 a.m. today.

Contact reporter Shavonne Walker at 704-797-4253.

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