Shaylynn Lenardo was cooking dinner in her home in a usually quiet Rio Dell neighborhood when she heard gunshots.
Lenardo peeked out her kitchen window, which faces Monument Road, and saw a green two-door car driving away. Then, “a gentleman running down my driveway screaming for help.”
When Lenardo and her friend came out the back door to investigate, they saw a man on the ground holding his stomach. He wasn’t screaming any longer. He wasn’t talking. Lenardo went inside to grab towels. When she returned, “the cops showed up.”
Lenardo was one of three witnesses to testify Thursday, day one of murder suspect Demetrius Coleman’s jury trial. First on the witness stand was Rio Dell police Sgt. John Beauchaine, who also was the first officer to arrive at the crime scene on Aug. 29, 2019. He saw a man, later identified as 26-year-old Johnny Mack Renfro, on the ground outside 70 Monument Road. He was curled into a fetal position, and a splotch of blood stained the front of his white shirt.
“There was a dime-sized hole on his lower abdomen just above the pubic area,” Beauchaine testified under questioning by Deputy District Attorney Carolyn Schaffer. Renfro died shortly after he was shot.
The green car in question was a 2000 Honda Accord coupe registered to Coleman’s estranged wife. She told investigators Coleman had the car in Humboldt County. In opening statements Thursday, defense attorney Andrea Sullivan told the jury Coleman admits he was in the Honda when it passed by the Monument Road house and the fatal shot was fired. Coleman will testify, Sullivan said, that he was in the back seat of the car when someone else fired at Renfro.
But the prosecution says Coleman was driving, and he followed Renfro from Eureka to Rio Dell because he believed Renfro and two other men had robbed him of marijuana earlier that day. Coleman’s girlfriend followed behind him in her vehicle. Later she picked him up after he left the Honda with some friends in Alton. The car ended up at a rural property in the Bridgeville area.
In the Honda’s glove compartment, investigators spotted a receipt to a storage unit on Humboldt Hill. The unit was not searched until February of this year.
Inside the small and cluttered room, officers found three firearms. Beauchaine said one was a Glock pistol and two were rifles that had been modified into pistols by removing the stock and shortening the barrel.
The murder weapon was never found, and bullet fragments at the scene were too small and damaged for investigators to determine the type of ammunition and the caliber. Broken glass was also found on Monument Road, possibly from the bullet that passed through and shattered the Honda’s back window.
Renfro was shot as he stood behind his blue Jeep Liberty, which he had parked at the curb outside 70 Monument Road. He had been in the process of changing his clothes. When investigators arrived they saw his belt on the ground. The Jeep was still running; the driver’s side door was open. His wallet was found on the front seat, along with two cellphones.
According to testimony at Coleman’s preliminary hearing, Renfro had been planning to visit a woman who lived in the neighborhood where he was shot.
It was determined a minimum of three shots were fired. One ricocheted off Lenardo’s house near the front door, one ricocheted off the hood of Renfro’s Jeep and one struck Renfro.
On Thursday jurors were shown a photograph of Renfro’s body on an operating table, just before his autopsy.
Testimony was expected to continue this morning before Judge Kelly Neel.
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