Witness: Man killed for money to go to fair

           Terry Hye Jr. is escorted into Jackson County Circuit Court in Pascagoula on Tuesday for the start of his capital murder trial in the death of Michael Porter of Hattiesburg.

PASCAGOULA

 Michael David Porter of Hattiesburg was shot and killed outside a Moss Point convenience store so suspects could get some cash to attend the Jackson County Fair, a witness testified Tuesday.

Alonzo Kelly pleaded guilty in December to accessory after the fact to the murder. He took the stand Tuesday in the capital murder trial of Terry Hye Jr., one of three teens charged with capital murder in the Oct. 23, 2008, shooting death of Porter outside the Conoco gas station on Mississippi 63 in Moss Point.

Kelly initially was charged with capital murder but a grand jury later indicted him on a reduced charge of accessory. He served about 11 months in prison and is now free.

Also charged with capital murder were the shooter, Darwin “D.J.” Wells, and Telvin James Benjamin, all minors at the time charged as adults. A jury later convicted Wells of a reduced charge of murder, and he is serving a life sentence. Benjamin is slated to go to trial May 3.

Kelly said that on the day of the killing, Wells said he planned to “hit a lick,” or find a way, like robbery, to get some money. Kelly said he also knew Wells to sell crack cocaine for cash, but on that day he said Wells indicated that he didn’t plan to sell drugs.

“Telvin and Darwin needed money for the fair,” Kelly said. “Terry already had some money, and I had some.”

Prior to the killing, he said he and the others ended up first at the Lil Super Store on Mississippi 63 several blocks north of the Conoco station to get an adult to buy Hye and the others some cigarettes. He said all of them often hung out at the store.

After a bit, Kelly said, all four of them started heading south toward the Conoco station, though he said he didn’t stop there because he always ended up arrested when he did. He said it was before they got to the Conoco that Wells showed him a .38-caliber handgun he was carrying.

“I didn’t know nothing about the robbery, but I knew what was going on,” Kelly said. “Hitting a lick, it means a robbery, whatever it takes.”

Kelly indicated that he was standing at a stop sign several blocks away from the Conoco station when the shooting occurred. He said he only saw Wells walking up to the store before the shooting happened. He said he saw Hye and Benjamin standing in the road. He said all three started running up the street toward him after the shooting and he ran along with them.

Linda Bell Porter told a different story, saying that she saw the three teens, later identified as Hye, Benjamin and Wells, standing outside the Conoco in the rain before her husband went inside the store. She said she knew something wasn’t right and soon learned what was in store for her husband.

Porter said she was sitting in the passenger seat of their Mercedes convertible with their dog Beau when she started hearing a thumping sound and turned and saw two of the teens jumping her husband. She said she saw another teen, later identified as Wells, walking toward them with a towel over his head.

Her husband, she said, managed to fight off two of the minors to get back into his car and was attempting to take off when Wells fired, a shot that hit her husband before he floored the accelerator in an attempt to get them out of harm’s way. Michael David Porter was not breathing, she said, by the time she was able to take control of the car and direct it into a Mississippi 63 ditch.

Porter ran to a neighbor’s house to get them to call for help, though she said she already knew her husband was gone. Linda Porter is a licensed nurse practitioner who works with cancer patients in Hattiesburg.

In a taped statement, Hye confirmed that he went to the Conoco to get someone to buy him some smokes, which he said he eventually did before heading off the property. He said in the statement that he saw Porter and his wife pull up and park. He said later that Wells circled their vehicle and fell at one point before getting up and telling Porter to give it up.

“Dude (Michael Porter) was trying to lock the door on him (Wells),” Hye said, “And “D.J.” (Wells) shot him and everybody ran.”

Hye also admitted to telling his aunt, Melody Jones, about what happened, but said she told him that since he didn’t pull the trigger, he hadn’t done anything wrong.”

The state contends that Wells, Hye and Benjamin attempted to rob Porter before Wells shot him to death.

Defense attorneys Wendy Martin and Arthur Carlisle questioned a number of inconsistencies in statements that Kelly and others, including Linda Porter, gave to authorities after the killing. One officer who took Linda Porter’s initial statement said that he talked to her for a total of about five minutes, at most, just one minute after hospital officials told her her husband was dead.

Michael David Porter, who served in the Marines for 14 years, also worked on a tugboat and owned his own small contracting business in Hattiesburg. The couple was in the process of moving into their newly built home when the murder occurred.

Testimony resumes this morning before Circuit Court Judge Dale Harkey.

On Tuesday, Harkey told the more than 21 who had gathered in support of Hye defense to refrain from making outbursts regarding any testimony. He also told them they could not enter and exit the courtroom during testimony.

Several of those in attendance could be heard making comments when Linda Porter took the stand. The judge said he would remove from the courtroom anyone who could not control emotions. 

By MARGARET BAKER – mbbaker@sunherald.com
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