Home > In the News, Informational, Trucker Murders > Slain trucker’s final call ended with ‘two loud noises’

Slain trucker’s final call ended with ‘two loud noises’

http://www.thetandd.com/articles/2009/12/02/news/doc4b15f02c782e4126898294.txt

ST. MATTHEWS – After a day of legal wrangling and two jury selections, the murder trial of a Calhoun County man accused of gunning down a New York trucker got under way Tuesday.

Willie Pelzer, 22, of 119 Merry Bell Lane, St. Matthews, is facing one count of murder in the shooting death of 35-year-old Jason Rivenburg of Fultonham, N.Y.

“As you’ve been told, Mr. Pelzer is charged with murder,” Assistant Solicitor Don Sorenson said in his opening argument. “It doesn’t get any more malicious than the facts you’re going to hear over the next few days.”

Pelzer’s defense team countered that two co-defendants charged with being accessories after the shooting may have played a more central role in the New York man’s death.

“These two guys are friends. They are also liars,” said defense attorney Martin Banks. “They lied about lesser things, they lied about bigger things. But nothing bigger than to save their own skins.”

Jimmie Haygood, 21, of 34 Melbery Lane, and Willie Reed, 21, of 6960 Columbia Road, both of St. Matthews, have been charged with accessory after the fact of murder. The cases against those two men are still pending. They could testify this week.

Rivenburg was found shot to death in his tractor-trailer at an abandoned gas station at the junction of Interstate 26 and Highway 6.

Investigators said Rivenburg had taken a part-time job driving trucks for a New York company. On March 5, he arrived in South Carolina to make the second of two stops delivering milk.

Rivenburg was found two days later in the cab of his truck. He had been shot to death while he rested before making his last delivery in Elloree, police said.

Investigators believe Haygood and Reed helped Pelzer hide evidence the day after the shooting. Haygood said during a bond hearing that the pair had been threatened by Pelzer if they didn’t help him.

Jerry Dubin of New York testified he was a friend of Rivenburg’s and had spoken to him via cell phone several times the night of May 5.

Dubin said that at about 10:30 p.m., he was speaking with his friend when the conversation was interrupted.

“Did something happen when you were on the phone?” Sorenson said.

“When he came back on, all I could hear was, ‘Oh my God!’” Dubin said. He then heard a pair of loud reports.

“You said you heard two loud noises, did you know what they were?”

“No, sir.”

Dubin said he tried to call Rivenburg back that night and again the following morning. He never received an answer.

Under cross examination, Banks asked if there were voices audible during a period of what Dubin said sounded like rummaging about.

“No talking?” Banks said.

“No.”

Investigator Nelson Armlin of the Schoharie County, N.Y. Sheriff’s Department took the stand, saying he had been called by Rivenburg’s family on March 6 about filing a missing persons report.

Armlin said he called Rivenburg’s cell phone provider and had them ping his phone. When it was located in Calhoun County, he contacted authorities here.

“Did your investigation reveal what time the victim arrived at the scene?” Banks asked.

“No.”

At about the same time, a concerned citizen notified deputies that a tractor-trailer rig had been parked across from Brakefield’s service station for two days. The dome light was on both nights.

Calhoun County Sheriff’s Sgt. Michael Headden arrived at the truck around 4:53 a.m. March 7.

“I pulled on the passenger’s side of the truck, and looked through the small portal window in the door of the truck and saw a deceased person,” he said.

First Circuit Solicitor David Pascoe introduced a photograph taken of Rivenburg in the truck.

“Does it accurately depict the way you found the victim?” Pascoe said.

“Yes.”

At that point, Banks objected to the introduction of the photograph and several more.

“I have state’s exhibits five through nine. To which do you object?” asked Circuit Court Judge James Williams.

“Five through nine,” Banks said.

“All of them?”

“Yes, sir.”

Williams overruled the objection, saying the photographs were not repetitive or too graphic.

That objection was only one part of a tooth-and-nail defense that sent a jury back to the pool earlier in the day.

Around 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, a jury had been seated. Sorenson objected, saying defense had struck, or dismissed, potential jurors based on race and gender. He argued six of the 12 potential jurors were struck because they were white males.

Defense attorney Mark Leiendecker, however, said he didn’t want anyone on the jury associated with the medical field, engineering field or who gave his client a “bad feeling.” Williams granted the prosecutor’s motion for a second selection from the jury pool.

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  1. janet bimbo
    December 2, 2009 at 9:12 pm

    i hope those of you that have not been suppporting jasons law does not go through this living night mare this is a young family taken down in its prime. please support this bill as this is not fair for the truckers and their friends and families to go through this senseless hell that the families of the victims are going through. PASS JASONS LAW NOW

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