Defendant’s friends testify in Md. murder trial

Travon Bennett bragged to his friend that he shot and killed 18-year-old Marckel Ross on Ross’s morning walk to school, a witness testified in Prince George’s County Circuit Court on Wednesday.

“He told me he tried to rob him, and the kid flinched at him . . . then he killed him,” the witness, Kendall Bland, told the jury.

Bland, of Brandywine, said Bennett reenacted how he held the gun and pulled the trigger, adding that Bennett was “a little proud” when he described the Sept. 11, 2012, shooting.

Bland, 23, was one of several witnesses who testified in Bennett’s first-degree murder trial, which started Monday. Prosecutors said Bennett shot Ross in the chest about 6:40 a.m. during the high school senior’s two-mile walk to Central High School.

Ross, an honor-roll student who was said to walk the same route daily, was carrying an iPhone and wearing a red watch and a pair of expensive sneakers when he was found, said prosecutors, who allege that robbery was Bennett’s central motive.

The shooting rattled Prince George’s because Ross was the second of six high school students killed over a six-month period between late 2012 and early 2013. The youngest teen who died was 14, and the oldest two, including Ross, were 18.

Jeremy Brown, another friend of Bennett’s, testified Wednesday that Bennett told him that he was going to “bust a move” or rob someone that morning. Then, he said, “he got the [gun] and put it on his waist,” Brown said.

Both Bland and 22-year-old Brown are in the county jail on robbery charges not related to Ross’s death and testified as part of a plea deal about those charges. Both said they had kept quiet about the slaying to protect Bennett.

Defense attorney Clayton Aarons said Wednesday that the testimony against his client doesn’t stand up.

“The state has no direct evidence,” Aarons said in opening statements, noting that there are no eyewitnesses to the crime and that no one can place Bennett at the scene.

Officers did not arrive on the scene until after Ross was shot, and no suspect was caught on surveillance or seen by witnesses. Bennett was arrested about six weeks after the slaying, following a separate armed robbery. That incident involved a revolver that matched the gun used in Ross’s slaying, prosecutor Sherrie Waldrup said in opening statements.

Another witness is scheduled to testify Thursday that Bennett confessed to the slaying. Meanwhile, expert witness Scott Mc­Veigh, a Prince George’s police firearms examiner, testified Tuesday that Ross was killed at close range with a revolver.

During their testimony, Bland and Brown testified that while the gun belonged to Brown, Bennett was the only person who could have used the gun, which was kept in Brown’s room. Brown said that he kept the gun under lock and key and that the only people who knew where the key was in the room were the three men.

During a break in Wednesday’s trial, Elizabeth Ross said her son was loving, fun and caring. She said he was eager to get to school Sept. 11, 2012, because he was graduating that year and couldn’t wait for his brothers.

“They took my best friend,” Elizabeth Ross said.

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