As a hearing began Tuesday for three men accused in the death of a 21-year-old Hixson man two years ago, the judge offered a warning to the audience not to act out in response to the graphic testimony.
"I understand this is a sensitive matter. There's a lot of emotion. But if you speak, you're in jail," Hamilton County General Sessions Judge Ronald Durby said.
Chance LeCroy's family packed the courtroom, wiping tears and holding and wearing photos of the young man who was shot to death in his home on the morning of Sept. 9, 2010, during what Chattanooga police say was a botched robbery.
Durby sent the case against Bill Bob Partin, 39; Patrick Carmody, 43; and Ronald Pittman, 42, to the grand jury after extensive testimony -- including Pittman's.
Partin and Carmody have been charged with first-degree murder and especially aggravated robbery, and Pittman, of Marion County, has been charged with facilitation of felony murder and especially aggravated robbery.
Pittman's examination by prosecutor Neal Pinkston was the focal point of the proceedings, as the defendant recounted details about the morning of the robbery.
He said he and Partin knew each other from working at Harbor Lights Marina in Soddy-Daisy, where Carmody lived. The three hatched the robbery plan because Partin knew through connections that LeCroy sold marijuana and had cash, he testified.
The three first drove to a sporting goods store where Pittman bought masks, Gatorade and bullets.
Pittman said the three put on the masks and entered the home at 1211 Johnston Terrace while LeCroy and his roommate slept. Pittman held a gun to the roommate's head while the other two went into LeCroy's room.
Soon he heard sounds of a fight from the room, Pittman said, and then heard two shots, spaced apart. He testified that he later learned that Carmody beat LeCroy so hard with the pistol that the gun clip fell out, and Partin made the killing shot as LeCroy fought Carmody.
Tucker King, LeCroy's roommate, said on the witness stand that he awoke to the sound of a gunshot to find a masked man holding a gun to his head.
After what King described as a skirmish, the three men fled. King said he found LeCroy unconscious in his bedroom. King said he tried CPR, but it was too late.
Pinkston later asked Pittman about the drive away from the home.
"What's his demeanor like?" he asked of Partin, who was driving.
"Just panicking," answered Pittman.
"What are you feeling at this particular moment?" Pinkston queried.
With voice cracking, Pittman said he had not come forward before because Carmody had threatened to harm his wife and his child if he did. He said he confessed after being arrested this year.
Joshua Weiss, Carmody's attorney, grilled Pittman about his motives for implicating Carmody in the crime, asking if he had received any deals from investigators and if he had a vendetta against Carmody because Pittman believed Carmody was having an affair with his wife.
"It's been hard for me to live with this on my chest. I finally got it off my chest and told the truth," Pittman answered loudly.
Pittman was defended by attorney Benjamin McGowan; Billy Bob Partin was defended by attorney David Barrow. None of the attorneys commented on the case after the hearing.
After the hearing, LeCroy's family held each other and filed out. LeCroy's grandmother, Polly LeCroy, clutched a photo of the grinning young man, saying, "He was as good of a boy as he looks."
Contact staff writer Kate Harrison at email@example.com or 423-757-6673.