LIMA — Testimony in the murder trial of Lima resident Kenneth Cobb continued at a snail’s pace Tuesday as frequent breaks in the proceedings were required to “refresh the memory” of a pair of witnesses who by their own admission were appearing in court unwillingly.
Jurors were excused and the courtroom was cleared on three separate occasions after the witnesses, each of whom was present when Cobb — by his own admission — shot Branson Tucker at an after-hours establishment on Lima’s South Side nearly a year ago, had difficulty recalling what they had told police following the incident.
During the recesses, tape recordings of the witnesses’ statements to police were played at the request of Defense Attorney Dustin Blake, who has claimed the shooting of Tucker was in self-defense and was justified because Cobb was being robbed at the time. Prosecutors say Cobb shot Tucker over a gambling dispute.
Taking the witness stand Tuesday morning were Chainze Tucker, the nephew of Branson Tucker, and Paige Schaad, both of whom were part of a group who left Marko’s Bar on South Main Street at Cobb’s invitation and went to the after-hours establishment that Cobb also called home in the early morning hours of Jan. 15, 2019.
Both Tucker and Schaad admitted to jurors they had lied to police following the shooting but neither could recall specifics of what they had told police. Blake, in his cross-examination of Tucker, suggested he had made up a story about the location where his uncle had been shot “because you were involved in robbing Mr. Cobb, isn’t that true?”
“No, sir,” Tucker replied.
Blake quizzed Schaad about her statement to police that she believed Cobb was being robbed shortly before shots were fired. The witness answered “I don’t recall” to several of the attorney’s questions, prompting Blake to request a tape of her statements be played behind closed doors to assist in her recollection. Back on the witness stand after the recess, Schaad agreed that she had told police it “looked as if the guys were robbing Kenny (Cobb) and he was fighting back.”
Testimony offered by Tucker and Schaad differed in the number of shots each said was fired at Cobb’s residence after tensions rose in a dispute over a dice game. Tucker said Cobb produced a gun “and shot three times” inside the building and “outside he shot three more times into the air.” Schaad said she heard “maybe two or three gunshots” inside the establishment before she fled outside. She said Cobb came to the door of the building “waving a gun, but he didn’t shoot” as the occupants were leaving after Branson Tucker was shot.
Upon questioning by Blake, Chainze Tucker said his uncle’s right arm had been amputated at the elbow at some time earlier in his life. Blake attempted to link the man’s loss of part of his arm to a prior gambling dispute, but that line of questioning was not allowed by the judge.
Also taking the stand Tuesday were Kevin Belcik, a forensic scientist and firearm examination expert with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal investigation, who testified that the bullet found inside Branson Tucker’s body was consistent with similar projectiles fired from the gun that belonged to Cobb.
Dr. Jeffrey Hudson, a forensic pathologist with the Lucas County Coroner’s Office, said Tucker’s death was the result of a single gunshot wound to the right hip.
The day ended abruptly when Lima Police Department Identification Officer Mike Carman suffered a medical emergency while on the witness stand. The courtroom was cleared and paramedics were called to the courtroom. Carman reportedly was alert and talking before EMS crews arrived.