published Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

Chattanooga: Defendant in murder trial denies involvement; says he was in the house to buy drugs from rapper

A defendant in an ongoing murder trial has testified that he was in the apartment to buy 7 grams of cocaine from a local rapper, who was killed in the home invasion robbery.

Testimony presented by witnesses during the first two days of this trial iidentified Dexter L.Talley, Jr., 31, and Alonzo "Butch" Grace, 43, as two of as many as six men who were involved in the robbery and killing of Brown.

Grace chose to testify this afternoon and said the day of the incident he had been at his cousin, retired NFL football player Terdell Sands’ house for a barbecue with Talley, Grace's nephew.

Grace and Talley each face charges of especially aggravated robbery, attempted murder and first-degree murder in Brown's March 28, 2009, slaying at 3929B Webb Oaks Court.

Grace said Talley got drunk at the barbecues so he took him home after smoking some marijuana. Grace dropped off his nephew then went to a crack house. But the drugs Grace smoked weren't high quality so he went to the house where Brown was staying to buy more cocaine.

It was while he was attempting to buy cocaine from Brown that, he testified, two men in masks rushed into the apartment, shot him, Brown and Brown's manager Josquin Jackson.

Jackson testified Tuesday that Grace was with Talley and four other men who entered the residence, attempted to bind he and Brown with duct tape.

Jackson said he struggled with Grace, who shot him once and another man, not identified, shot Brown in the chest and then shot him in the face.

Prosecutors Neal Pinkston and Brian Finlay concluded their case with testimony of Dr. James Metcalfe, the Hamilton County Medical Examiner who performed 33-year-old Brown's autopsy.

The trial began Tuesday morning and re-convened this morning.

Before a lunch break defense attorneys grilled lead investigator Chattanooga police Detective Karl Fields about his decisions during the murder investigation.

McGowan, Grace's attorney, asked why Fields didn't pursue tips from an informant within the lcoal branch of the criminal syndicate "Gangster Disciples" who told police that two "high-level" members had orchestrated the robbery-killing.

"He identified these two people by name, and I should point out for clarity that it's neither of these two men," McGowan said, pointing at Talley and Grace.

Fields agreed but said he questioned information provided second-hand by the informant.

"(The informant) wanted some help with his charges," Fields said. "I've never gotten any accurate information out of him."

But Fields did share the information with a local FBI agent who flew to California and showed photos of the gang members to Jackson, 45, another victim in the shooting.

Jackson, who testified Tuesday, could not identify the gang members in the photos, Fields testified.

Brown's childhood friend and sometime roommate, Harold Calloway, 36, testified this morning in the second day of the Brown murder trial.

Talley's attorney, David Barrow, alleged during his cross-examination of Calloway that the house was used to cook and sell cocaine.

But Calloway firmly denied all allegations.

"There was no drug use at the house?" Barrow asked.

"Not to my knowledge," Calloway replied.

"You deny that Mr. Brown was cooking cocaine at that house?" Barrow asked.

"Yes sir," Calloway replied.

"You deny that Jackson and Brown came to the house with the intention of moving a lot of drugs at the house?"

"Yes sir," Calloway replied.

Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Agent Mark Dunlap was the first prosecution witness called in the second day of the Brown murder trial.

Prosecutor Brian Finlay asked Dunlap if he'd matched blood found on the door of the apartment where the killing took place.

He said it matched Grace's DNA sample.

Finlay asked him the probability of it not being Grace's.

"The probability on both of these items, that you could find another individual with that same partial DNA profile would be one in 7 billlion, not that good," Dunlap said.

Jackson testified Monday and identified both Talley and Grace as being involved in the shooting and robbery.

A third co-defendant, 23-year-old Julian Maurice Smith, Jr., faces a separate trial on June 18.

Smith has been free on bond since December and is in the audience of the trial today.

Police found Brown's body facedown in a house plant inside the apartment.

Brown used the stage name "Brikk" and had worked alongside nationally known hip-hop performers such as OutKast, 8Ball & MJG and New Beginnings, which featured Chattanooga native Usher Raymond.

Prior to his death, Brown and his rap partner Moore, dubbed the rap duo "Piney Woods," had signed a music contract with Black Ice Records of Richmond, Calif., a subsidiary of Universal Music Group.

The duo had recently recorded an album, which included a track with nationally-known rapper Lil' Wayne, which they were traveling the nation to promote.

For more see tomorrow's Times Free Press.

about Todd South...

Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...

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