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Dustin Hayes said he hoped the popping noise he heard on that hot July day in 2012 was just firecrackers.

Hayes testified Thursday in Hamilton County Criminal Court that he knew he was driving Ronald Cosper, 21, to a house in Avondale so that Cosper could rob "the weed man," but said he had no idea the incident would end in murder.

Hayes, 21, said he was waiting for Cosper in his grandmother's 1991 white Buick when he heard three consecutive bangs. Minutes later, Cosper came around the block, got back into the car and told him the robbery went wrong -- he'd fired three shots at 39-year-old Steve Mosley.

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Ronald Cosper

Hayes said he drove away with Cosper and Devante Stoudemire, 22, a co-defendant whose case is pending. Still in the car, Cosper made a phone call, according to Hayes.

"Whoever was on the phone must have known what was going down or something," Hayes said. Cosper "proceeded to tell how [Mosley] fought back, and how he had to burn him -- or shoot him, which is what burn means."

Cosper is facing charges of felony murder, criminal trespassing, aggravated criminal trespassing, attempted especially aggravated robbery and conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery.

Cosper's attorney, Andrew Basler, questioned the legitimacy of Hayes' testimony. Hayes pleaded guilty to facilitation to commit aggravated robbery last week and his charges of first-degree murder and aggravated robbery were dismissed. According to the agreement, Hayes is required to truthfully testify in this case.

Basler called the plea agreement a "sweetheart deal" and challenged Hayes' motivation to tell the whole truth to jurors.

"By your own testimony, a homicide would not have occurred if not for you," Basler said. "You drove them over there, you knew what they were going to do."

Much of the state's case against Cosper on Thursday revolved around Hayes' testimony. After the prosecution rested, Judge Barry Steelman rejected a defense request for an acquittal, saying enough evidence was presented to implicate Cosper in Mosley's death.

"It is up to the jury to determine if a witness's testimony has been adequately corroborated," Steelman said. "It's not just the testimony of Dustin Hayes which implicates Mr. Cosper. It is a series of witnesses that have all testified about different types of physical evidence and circumstantial evidence."

Wednesday's testimony said Cosper's fingerprint was found at the scene, and several witnesses said they heard an altercation before the shots were fired. Following Hayes' testimony, several expert witnesses and law enforcement officials testified the bullets found in Mosley's body matched shell casings found at a different location.

The defense decided not to present any evidence, and Cosper told the court he did not want to testify. Closing arguments from both sides will begin this morning.

Contact staff writer Kendi Anderson at kendi.anderson@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6592.

Update:

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