Boy testifies in slaying of Tanganika Stanton, shot over a hamburger

By Keith L. Alexander
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 8, 2010

Wearing his Air Jordan sneakers, a white polo shirt and blue-jean shorts, the soft-spoken 10-year-old boy often looked up to the ceiling from the witness stand inside the D.C. Superior Court, hoping to remember details of the 2008 fatal shooting of a Northeast Washington woman.

Police say a District man shot the woman after she and her mother refused to cook him a hamburger.

Tanganika Stanton, 18, was sitting outside her apartment building in the 4900 block of Grant Street eating a hamburger that her mother had fixed for her.

Terrence J. Jones, 20, of the 3500 block of Jay Street NE, was outside Stanton's building and asked the recent Ballou Senior High School graduate where she got the food. According to court documents, Stanton told Jones that her mother cooked the burger for her. Jones said he wanted one and asked both women to make it for him. The mother and daughter refused.

Jones then allegedly left the area, returned with a gun and shot at the women in what another witness called in an affidavit a "large volley of gunfire." Stanton's mother was shot in her foot. Another bullet passed through Stanton's left shoulder and pierced her heart. Stanton later died from her injuries.

Jones is charged with second-degree murder while armed. The boy's testimony came on the third day of the trial.

At the time of Jones's arrest, at least one animal rights organization, PETA, attributed Stanton's slaying to Jones's love of meat.

On Wednesday, the boy arrived at court, walking between his mother and father. His father sat in the audience, watching the boy testify -- but also watching Jones, who was sitting next to his attorneys from the District's Public Defender Service. The boy's mother sat in a witness room outside Judge Ronna L. Beck's courtroom as she also waited to testify.

The Washington Post generally does not name juvenile witnesses in murder cases.

On the stand, the boy told prosecutor Jennifer Kerkhoff that he remembered the shooting because he had just returned home from school and had changed out of his uniform and put on his play clothes to ride his new bike.

While biking around the neighborhood with another friend, the boy said, he saw Jones shoot a gun from a gate in front of an apartment building, where the mother and daughter lived.

Kerkhoff, often sounding like a grade school teacher, asked the boy what happened when he was riding his bike.

The boy said he recognized Jones from the neighborhood because Jones was a former friend of his older brother's. The boy said he saw "Terrence" shooting from the gate at a girl on the steps. The girl started running, he said.

"I was scared. I went home," the boy said.

The boy's mother later testified that the boy is in therapy and that his grades have plummeted since witnessing the shooting.

But during her cross-examination of the boy, Jones's attorney, Elizabeth Mullin, pointed out contradictions in his testimony. At one point, the boy told Mullin that he didn't see the shooting but only heard the gunshots.

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