Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

March 22, 2013

Friends and family: McKinley never violent or dishonest

By GREG JORDAN
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

PRINCETON — Friends and relatives of a local man facing a charge of first-degree murder told a Mercer County jury Thursday that they had never known him to be violent or dishonest.

The defendant, 27-year-old Marcus McKinley of Princeton, was arrested after the May 19, 2011 death of Ayana Patton, 18, of Bluefield. Bluefield police found Patton at the Opera House Apartments in downtown Bluefield after receiving reports of gunshots. McKinley was traced after the murder to North Carolina and later extradited back to West Virginia.

Witnesses called to the stand Thursday testified that they had never known McKinley to be a violent or dishonest person. McKinley and Patton had an infant son who was removed from their custody due to repeated reports of domestic violence. The couple had been instructed by authorities with state Child Protective Services to remain apart. Both parents had visitation rights.

Deputy W.E. Rose of the Mercer County Sheriff’s Department testified that he had responded in the past to domestic altercation calls involving the couple. In one instance, Patton was kicking her own vehicle, Rose said.

“Neither one would press charges on the other,” Rose stated when McKinley’s attorney, Tom Czarnik, questioned him. “They would not give statements.”

Czarnik also asked the deputy if McKinley was ever belligerent when speaking with him or other officers.

“No. He’s always been polite to us,” Rose replied.

Special Prosecutor Edward Kornish asked the deputy whether the person who called authorities about a domestic violence situation indicated who was at fault.

“No,” Rose replied.

The defendant’s sister, Shante McKinley, testified she had never seen the couple in an altercation.

“I never saw them fight or argue,” she stated.

She recalled one occasion, a baby shower for Ayana, when her brother had a black eye and did not want to sit with the mother of his child.

“You don’t know what she put me through,” Shante McKinley quoted her brother as saying. She added that both parents treated their child well and that they “acted as a happy family.”

In earlier testimony this week, one investigator stated that McKinley expressed remorse while he was being transported back to West Virginia. John Witt, a member of the Southern West Virginia Regional Drug and Violent Crime Task Force, said he accompanied Lt. C.S. Myers and Cpl. J.J. Ruble, both of the Bluefield Police Department, when McKinley was being brought back from the Charlotte, N.C. area.

Witt said McKinley volunteered information during the drive back to West Virginia despite being told he should speak with an attorney first.

McKinley stated that he had the gun for protection and had not intended to shoot Patton, and had been at the apartment previously, Witt testified.

“He said he had been there the evening before and if he had intended to shoot her, he would have shot her then,” Witt stated.

The trial continues today before Judge Omar Aboulhosn.

— Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline.com