Deonte Lanier’s freedom could depend on whether jurors believe Amanda Fisher’s testimony on Tuesday or what police say she told them shortly after the 2012 shooting death of Johnny Peay.
Lanier, 25, is on trial this week, charged with first-degree murder. If convicted, he faces mandatory life imprisonment without parole. Co-defendant Connell “Tigo” Muskelly is expected to testify against Lanier later in the trial.
Tuesday, Fisher, Lanier’s girlfriend, took center stage. She told the jury she didn’t want to be in the witness chair. Prosecutors say the 29-year-old Mount Holly woman suddenly moved to Myrtle Beach after being subpoenaed to testify against Lanier. The trial judge had her arrested and jailed to make sure she turned up in court.
On the night of Sept. 26, 2012, according to Fisher’s testifimony Tuesday, she and the man she affectionately called “Big Daddy” argued at her Gaston County home before Lanier drove off on his scooter. She said he returned the next morning as Fisher was watching a TV news report about Peay’s killing the night before.
“He was like, ‘Oh s--t,’ ” Fisher recalled. She said Lanier walked into the kitchen and called a friend on his cellphone. She said she heard Lanier say, “Tell your unc to hide his gun.”
When Lanier came back to the couch, “I asked him, ‘Did you have something to do with that (killing)?’ ” Fisher said. Lanier asked how she could ask such a question, she said, then punched a hole in a nearby wall.
In his questioning of Fisher, assistant prosecutor Jay Ashendorf spent particular time asking her about a sawed-off shotgun she says her boyfriend kept behind the door of their bedroom. Fisher testified that the gun was in its regular spot when she went to bed on Sept. 26 and was still there when she awoke the next day.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg police say Fisher had given a different account of the whereabouts of the weapon during an early morning phone conversation with police. Then-homicide detective David Abbott testified Tuesday that he phoned the woman after she made a 2 a.m. 911 call. Abbott said Fisher told him that Lanier was involved in Peay’s killing and that she had last seen him driving off the night of Sept. 26 with the shotgun.
Fisher said she doesn’t remember making that call or giving any of those details.
Under questioning by Ashendorf, she acknowledged that she and Lanier had argued again the night before the 911 call was made and that she felt guilty when detectives filled her in on what she told them. Lanier was arrested soon afterward.
Defense attorney Johneric Emehel tried to keep Fisher out of the witness chair. He said her conflicting statements amounted to inadmissible hearsay that would damage his client’s rights to due process. Superior Court Judge Jesse Caldwell overruled him, saying each side would be given ample room to attack Fisher’s credibility.
Prosecutors said they have recordings of calls in which Fisher promises she’ll never testify against him.
“Do you love the defendant?” Ashendorf asked.
“Yes sir, I do,” Fisher replied.
“Do you want to see him go away to prison for the rest of his life?”
“No sir, I don’t.”