Prosecutors don’t know for sure why Horace L. Amerson shot and killed Jarrod Maxwell in March 2011 as he sat outside the Family Dollar at 30th Street and Newport Avenue.
But Deputy Douglas County Attorney Jim Masteller has a hunch: Amerson’s brother, Jonas, was killed in March 2010 in an apparent gang-related shooting.
A year and one day after that, Horace Amerson, 28, got out of a car and fired as he stood on a slight hill overlooking the parking lot.
Big problem: The shooting was a case of mistaken identity, Masteller said.
Jarrod Maxwell had nothing to do with Jonas Amerson’s shooting, the prosecutor said. However, Masteller said, the gunman may have mistaken the car Maxwell was in for that of a rival gang member.
“Only Horace Amerson knows why he did it — and he has never offered an explanation,” Masteller said.
Prosecutors offered Amerson a deal Wednesday: They would reduce his charge from first-degree murder to manslaughter and weapon use if he pleaded to those charges.
So Amerson did. And prosecutors offered one other caveat — that he will serve no more than 25 years in prison. If District Judge Greg Schatz were to exceed that number, Amerson would be able to withdraw his plea.
Masteller said the plea bargain was spurred in part by the fact that prosecutors had no DNA or fingerprint tests to corroborate a co-defendant’s account that Amerson fired the shot that killed Maxwell.
During his eight-hour interrogation, Markus L. Walker gave varying accounts of the events that led to the shooting.
Walker eventually told investigators that Amerson pulled the car over just north of the store, got out and opened fire on a car in the lot. The bullets struck Maxwell in the head.
Walker said he slipped into the driver’s seat and Amerson — whom he knew as “D” — got in the passenger seat. They sped away, crashed into another vehicle and eventually stopped near 42nd Street and Himebaugh Avenue.
Walker told Police Detective Chris Gordon that as he drove from the scene, “D” tossed the gun onto his lap. The two played “hot potato” with the gun, which eventually ended up back in Walker’s lap. After the car stopped, “D” got out and ran.
However, Walker was apprehended — right after police saw him toss the .40-caliber gun.
The case was further complicated by the fact that the woman who rented the car that the gunmen were in — Cardella D. Womack — has since married Amerson, Masteller said.
Amerson will be sentenced in April.
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