LIMA — A disagreement over gambling led to Branson Tucker’s death, jurors in the murder trial of Lima resident Kenneth Cobb heard Monday from sources ranging from prosecutors and the defendant’s attorney to an admittedly reluctant witness.
Cobb, 60, is one of two Lima men charged in the shooting death of Branson Tucker nearly a year ago. As the admitted gunman in Tucker’s death, Cobb is charged with murder with a firearm specification and having weapons while under disability. Jerome Fuqua has also been charged in Tucker’s murder for allegedly providing the handgun used to shoot Tucker.
Cobb and Fuqua were taken into custody on Jan. 16, 2019, one day after Tucker was found dead inside a vehicle that had been involved in an early-morning traffic accident on Lima’s Michael Avenue. Tucker was found to be suffering from a gunshot wound to the torso and died later that morning at Mercy Health-St. Rita’s Medical Center.
Detectives subsequently learned the shooting occurred inside a structure at 975 St. Johns Ave., Lima, that served as an after-hours establishment as well as Fuqua’s residence.
In opening statements to jurors, defense attorney Dustin Blake laid the groundwork for what appeared to be a self-defense strategy. He said Cobb used a gun “to defend himself against a physical attack in his home” after a things turned rowdy amid allegations of cheating at a dice game at an after-hours location that Cobb called home.
Blake said his client stepped up the morning following the shooting and called police to admit his role in the incident while others at the scene were “uncooperative and belligerent” with investigators.
“Branson Tucker was dying, and they were lying,” Blake said. “They lied because they knew they were in the wrong. They were part of a group who robbed and assaulted Kenneth Cobb.”
The attorney maintained Cobb “was a victim of a crime in his own home and was right and justified in what he did.”
Opening testimony in the trial came from Lima Police Department patrol officers Kelly Ricker and Kaitlyn Wiedman, who were first to respond to a traffic accident on Michael Avenue in the early-morning hours of Jan. 16. Jurors viewed photographs taken by Ricker of Tucker lying on the ground near the SUV that was involved in the accident. His feet remained inside the SUV. The photo showed Tucker suffering from what appeared to be a gunshot wound to his right hip.
Also testifying was Damian White, who was part of a group he said was approached by Cobb at Marko’s Bar the evening before the shooting. He said Cobb invited the group — which included himself, Branson Tucker, Chance Tucker and “three or four females” he did not know — to come to the after-hours joint.
Inside the establishment, White testified, the Tuckers were playing craps with an “older guy” later identified as Cobb.
“Branson said the older guy was cheating (at dice) and a tussle broke out between Branson and the dude,” White testified, adding that he (White) “pushed the dude and knocked him to the floor” before running out the door.
As he fled, White said he heard someone say, “I’m hit.” White said he helped Branson Tucker out of the building and into an SUV and drove off with Branson and Chance Tucker and “one of the girls.” The car crashed on Michael Street due to ice-covered streets and White’s intoxication, he testified. White fled the scene and avoided police for several months following the accident.
The trial is scheduled to resume Tuesday morning.