A former Mecklenburg County inmate said Monday that Justin Hurd, on trial in connection with a 2008 triple slaying in Charlotte, described the killings as an organized hit on a drug dealer who “owed some big money” to New York crime figures.
Jimmy Williams, who claimed to have become friends with Hurd while serving time in the county jail, said the 35-year-old Hurd described himself as “an enforcer” who had to punish the drug dealer, believed to be Kevin “Fergie” Young.
Young, his girlfriend Kinshasa Wagstaff and Wagstaff’s niece were killed in early February six years ago.
Authorities say Hurd and Nate Sanders, both of Cincinnati, are responsible for the deaths. Sanders was killed later that year.
If convicted, Hurd faces a possible death sentence.
Williams is the second witness to link Hurd to the crime. But both he and Antonio Harmon, who testified earlier that Hurd and Sanders came up with the plan during meetings in Atlanta, have long criminal histories.
Williams brought a criminal resume to the witness stand that includes charges of fraud, forgery and counterfeiting in three states, and hejust finished a 10-year federal sentence on related charges.
Alan Bowman, Hurd’s lead defense attorney, pounced on Williams’ record to damage his testimony.
Bowman zeroed in on Williams’ claim that he and Hurd began talking in jail because Hurd had questions about his legal case.
“You’ve been in jail for most of the last 10 years,” Bowman said. “Why would anyone come to you and ask you how to get out of trouble? ... You can’t write a book on being a successful criminal, can you?”
Williams’ account and his sparring with Bowman lit up Judge Robert Ervin’s courtroom, as testimony in the Hurd case entered its second week.
According to other witnesses, Young, 34, sold marijuana that he bought in Atlanta, Charlotte and other places. Police say they recovered a 5-pound package of the drug, along with scales and a handgun, in Young’s storage locker on Brookshire Boulevard after his death.
Wagstaff’s father also told the jury that he drove a car back from Atlanta for Young that contained an estimated 50 pounds of pot.
Young lived at Wagstaff’s home on Patricia Ryan Lane in north Charlotte. He was found handcuffed in the fire wreckage of the house, knife wounds to his throat and a bullet hole in his abdomen. Wagstaff, 33, and a real estate agent, also had her hands bound. Her throat had been slashed or stabbed five times.
Her niece, Jasmine Hines, 18, turned up about 7 miles away off Beatties Ford Road in Huntersville. She had been gagged and shot twice, her body doused with gasoline.
Hurd was arrested about a year after the killings. Williams said he and the accused began building a “very cohesive relationship” in jail last year. He said the two ate together, played cards and basketball, then began spending time discussing Hurd’s case.
Among Williams’ claims:• The killings were retribution. “A drug dealer owed big money and he had to be dealt with,” Williams said Hurd told him.
• Hurd said, “I made everybody in there pull the trigger so they’d be accountable.”
• Hurd bragged that his case had no witnesses. “The only one who could put me in North Carolina ... was taken care of a few months afterward,” Hurd said, according to Williams. (Sanders, 20, was fatally shot Sept. 26, 2008, in Cincinnati. He was wearing a bullet-resistant vest at the time, according to media reports.)
• Hurd showed little remorse that “innocent people” had died. “Damn,” Williams said Hurd told him, “that’s the nature of the business.”
Bowman tore into Williams’ credibility in questioning that went beyond the witness’ long criminal history.
Williams also was forced to answer for his participation in Sovereign Citizens, considered a domestic terrorist movement that doesn’t recognize federal laws. Williams said he is no longer a member.
At times, Williams’ back-and-forth with Bowman from the witness chair had Assistant District Attorney Clayton Jones signaling him to keep quiet.
That didn’t stop Williams from alluding to almost two dozen misdemeanor arrests that Bowman and Jones had agreed not to discuss.
With the jury out of the room, Ervin told Bowman that Williams had “opened the door” on those cases.
“You’re free to rip it off the hinges and beat him over the head with it.”