Eyewitness changes testimony in Lookout Valley triple homicide case

Eyewitness changes testimony in Lookout Valley triple homicide case

September 21st, 2017 by Zack Peterson in Breaking News

Judge Barry A. Steelman talks to prospective jurors for the Lookout Valley trial involving defendant Derek Morse on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017.

Photo by Tim Barber /Times Free Press.

More than three years ago, looking out a window, Brandon Jackson saw a black car driving toward his family's Lookout Valley trailer home.

Jackson knew the vehicle. It had a dent on the roof and belonged to Derek Morse.

And Jackson should know — he said he swung a tire iron into the roof five days earlier when he, Jon Morris and a third friend tried to ambush Morse in a Food Lion parking lot over $20.

On this particular night, April 9, 2014, around 7 p.m., Jackson said he watched the vehicle head toward a nearby motorhome where Morris, John Lang, Caleb Boozer and Matthew Callan were hanging out.

Then, he heard gunshots.

Chattanooga prosecutors believe Morse and Skyler Allen opened fire on those men, killing everybody except Callan, partly because of the Food Lion incident. A third acquaintance, Jacob Allison, then a minor, drove them to and from the crime scene, prosecutors say.

That's why Morse, who faces three counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted first-degree murder, has stood trial in Hamilton County Criminal Court for three days now.

According to previous testimony, Jackson told law enforcement days later that he saw Morse jump out of the vehicle and walk toward the group of men he allegedly murdered that night.

But today, when prosecutors called him to the witness stand, Jackson changed course, saying he couldn't remember giving that statement to Hamilton County investigators.

"Is that what you saw?" prosecutor Cameron Williams asked.

"No," Jackson said.

"That's not what you saw? Ok. Did you ever see anybody get out of the vehicle?" Williams asked.

"No," Jackson said.

Prosecutors regularly deal with witnesses who change their stories on the stand.

In addition to eyewitness testimony, they've shown jurors the alleged murder weapons and photos of the bullets found in Morse's black car when authorities arrested him. Those shell casings match the caliber of some bullets found at the crime scene, prosecutors say.

Today, in addition to calling Jackson, prosecutors played surveillance footage that shows Morse, Allen and Allison together at a Subway about an hour after the shooting.

Morse's defense attorney, Dan Ripper, says that forensic evidence is all fine and well.

But the state arrested a man based on rumors, he said.

He pointed to Jackson, who recanted his testimony today about seeing Morse get out of the vehicle.

And yesterday, Ripper said, Callan, the only survivor, picked Morse out of a police lineup because of Molly Morris, a sister to one of the victims.

Morris, who lived in the same trailer as her husband, Jackson, said she ran toward a scream after hearing gunshots.

It turned out to be Callan, suffering five gunshot wounds on the front porch of his parent's nearby trailer.

She told Callan's father, who told a 911 operator, that Morse was involved, Ripper said. Problem was, neither one of them witnessed the shooting, Ripper said.

Testimony continues today after jurors return from their lunch break around 2 p.m.

This is a developing story. Please check back later for more information.