Mothers of victims testify in 2010 series of killings in D.C.


Shelly Proctor is comforted by her brother at a remembrance event in March 2011, a year after shootings left one of her sons dead and another injured. (Jahi Chikwendiu/WASHINGTON POST)

Shelly Proctor has sat quietly in a District courtroom for four weeks, often dabbing at tears as she listened to witnesses testify against the five men charged with murder in a series of March 2010 shootings.

On Wednesday, Proctor, petite and wearing a ponytail, took the witness stand and identified herself as the mother of William Henry Jones III, a 19-year-old killed during the shootings, and a 15-year-old boy who was shot in the leg during a March 30 drive-by shooting.

Proctor’s testimony provided some of the trial’s most dramatic moments yet. Proctor, 40, often glared at the defendants as a prosecutor asked her questions — and, at one moment, went further.

“These bastards. These killers. These murderers,” Proctor yelled. The men — Sanquan Carter, 21; his brother Orlando, 22; Jeffrey Best, 23; Robert Bost, 23; and Lamar Williams, 23 — turned their heads, looked to the judge or looked down at notebooks.

“Yeah, Mom!” a man shouted before U.S. marshals removed him from the room. D.C. Superior Court Judge Ronna L. Beck warned others against outbursts, instructing the jury to focus on the evidence being presented.

Much of Wednesday’s testimony came from people such as Proctor — mothers of those killed or injured during the drive-by in the 4000 block of South Capitol Street SE that capped eight days of violence in the District. Those shootings left five dead and eight injured.

Proctor heard gunshots, she said, and ran out of her apartment. When she arrived at the scene, she testified, police stopped her — but she saw William’s body just feet away on a grassy hill.

An ambulance took her younger son to a hospital, Proctor said, and she remembered an agonizing choice: Stay with her dead son’s body or accompany her living son to get medical care. She chose the latter.

Prosecutors and witnesses had previously discussed a shooting outside a March 22 party that killed Jordan Howe, 20; this week, they have moved to March 30.

That evening’s first shooting left Tavon Nelson, 17, dead. Prosecutors said he was killed in an attempt to rob him of his gun before the drive-by, which targeted mourners who had attended Howe’s funeral.

His mother, Michelle Nelson, 41, testified that she had left her apartment in the 100 block of Galveston Street SW to go to the corner store. She heard gunshots and turned back before a neighbor rushed up, telling her that her son had been shot.

The teen was taken to a hospital, but Nelson said she got the wrong information about which one.

She first rushed to Greater Southeast Hospital, then to Howard University Hospital, then to George Washington Hospital. An official from one of the hospitals told her that there was an unidentified male in the morgue, but that she couldn’t identify it until the next morning.

Latisha Boyd, 37, testified that she sat at Washington Hospital Center for two hours before she learned that her son DeVaughn was at Prince George’s Community Hospital. Boyd, 17, also died of his injuries.

When Nardyne Jefferies, 42, took the witness stand, Assistant U.S. Attorney Bruce Hegyi asked her, “Do you have any children?”

“Not anymore,” Jefferies said, looking stoically at the five defendants.

Her only child, 16-year-old Bri­sh­ell Jones, was the youngest person killed on South Capitol Street. Jefferies said she still regrets not following her instinct to keep her daughter from attending Howe’s funeral.

“I felt like I had failed in every way possible,” Jefferies said.

All five defendants are charged with first-degree murder; all have pleaded not guilty. A sixth man, Nathaniel Simms, 28, admitted to a role in the shootings, pleading guilty to five counts of second-degree murder and agreeing to cooperate with authorities.

Keith Alexander covers crime, specifically D.C. Superior Court cases for The Washington Post. He has covered dozens of crime stories from Banita Jacks, the Washington woman charged with killing her four daughters, to the murder trial of slain federal intern Chandra Levy.
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