published Thursday, May 29th, 2014

Witness tells of ambush in Lookout Valley triple slaying

  • photo
    Skylar Allen, 22, left, and Derek Morse, 19, appear before Judge Christie Mahn Sell, both being charged in the April 9 triple murder in Lookout Valley.
    Photo by Dan Henry.
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One man was the target. The other three were just collateral damage.

Testimony in a hearing Wednesday for two men charged in an April 9 Lookout Valley triple slaying described cold-blooded killings: one man dead before he could get out of his chair; another shot in the chest, then in the forehead as he begged for his life; a third dragged from beneath an RV and killed and a teenager who stumbled down a ditch bleeding as he tried to escape and later played dead.

Three witnesses described a 15-year-old boy as the driver of a black four-door Hyundai sedan and Derek Morse, 19, and Skyler Allen, 22, as the shooters in the Kellys Ferry Road slayings. The two adults now face indictment after three charges apiece of first-degree murder and one charge each of attempted first-degree murder were sent to the grand jury from Hamilton County General Sessions Court.

If convicted, the pair face life sentences in each killing.

Jon Everett Morris, 24; Caleb Boozer, 29; and John Francis Lang, 53, died in the shooting. Matthew Callan Jr., 16, survived with five gunshot wounds -- one bullet remained lodged in the left side of his neck as he testified Wednesday.

Morse and Allen, in shackles and red jail jumpsuits, showed little emotion in court, occasionally talking with their respective attorneys, Hank Hill and Jeffery Schaarschmidt.

Twenty dollars owed to a man not at the scene of the eventual shooting -- Daniel Antoine -- may have sparked the shooting spree.

Brandon Jackson testified that he, Jon Morris and a friend named Antoine went to confront Morse on April 4 at the Food Lion on Browns Ferry Road about $20 Morse owed Antoine.

Antoine was to fight Morse; Jackson and Morris were there for backup. Jackson hit Morse's car with a tire iron. Morse fired a pistol at the trio, chasing them down Browns Ferry Road and firing until Jackson crashed their car into a ditch on Ogrady Drive.

When Hill cross-examined Jackson, who was in custody on child abuse charges in Catoosa County, Ga., Jackson become combative, calling Morse and Allen murderers.

"I wish you'd put me and [Morse] in a cell together," Jackson testified.

Sessions Court Judge Christie Mahn Sell admonished Jackson multiple times for his outbursts.

Dennis Wayne McNabb, the father of Allen's girlfriend, testified that on April 9 he saw a car pull up to his daughter's mobile home on Burgess Road. McNabb watched as Morse and the 15-year-old carried guns out of the trailer. He said they and Allen got into the car and left.

Jackson testified he looked out of his mobile home and saw the black sedan park a few hundred feet from the crime scene moments before the shooting. He saw Morse loading a gun and then saw the car move in the direction of 4504 Kellys Ferry Road.

He left his mobile home and walked through the woods to see what was going on. Jackson said he watched Morse get out of the back passenger side of the car and begin firing at the four men.

Callan testified he had spent most of the afternoon of April 9, once he got home from school, hanging out with Boozer, Morris and Lang. He helped the men work on an electric meter and smoked marijuana.

Callan saw the black car pull up and watched Morse get out, pull out a .22-caliber rifle and start firing. Callan, Boozer and Morris ran. Lang died in his chair.

Bullets struck Morris and Callan. They fell.

"I said, 'Jon, I'm shot,'" Callan testified. "He said, 'run home and call the police.'"

But all Callan could do was stumble down an embankment. Morris ran the wrong way, downward into a thicket of thorn bushes, then he ran back up the hill and crawled under an RV.

Callan saw a man, maybe Allen, shoot Boozer at least twice in the chest with a pistol.

"Please don't kill me, I don't even know y'all," Callan heard Boozer plead.

The man then put his pistol inches away from Boozer's forehead and fired. Boozer dropped.

From the bottom of the embankment Callan could only partly see what happened to Morris. He heard the sound of Morris being dragged over gravel, saw arms waving and then heard gunshots. Morris' body had eight bullet wounds, according to court documents.

Bleeding, Callan played dead and listened for the car to pull away even as he heard Morse say, "Make sure they're all dead."

The teenager then scrambled up the ditch and ran to his home, where he collapsed and his mother called police.

Video footage from a Subway, a BP gas station and a hotel in Trenton, Ga., showed the men together within the hour after the shooting. In his first phone call from jail, Morse told his girlfriend a detailed time line and asked that she share it with Allen and the juvenile.

The 15-year-old suspect is being held in juvenile detention. At a hearing Wednesday, Hamilton County Juvenile Court Judge Rob Philyaw's courtroom. The judge set June 3 for a bond hearing and July 10 as a transfer hearing. Prosecutors have requested the juvenile be tried in adult court.

Contact staff writer Todd South at tsouth@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6347. Follow him on Twitter @tsouthCTFP.

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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