Man was shot in head following argument about girlfriend, women testify
Gallery: Preliminary hearing held for Justin Hughes in connection with homicide of Jeffrey Reynolds
SAGINAW, MI — Jeffrey Reynolds argued with Justin L. Hughes and Jamil L. Brown seconds before somebody gunned him down, two women testified Thursday, Aug. 4.
Reynolds, 34, died after he was shot in the head early May 28 outside 2966 Arlington in Buena Vista Township.
Reynolds’ girlfriend told a judge Thursday that seconds after Reynolds was shot as he stood next to the passenger side of her vehicle, she screamed out his name as she made her away around to the driver’s side. She stopped near the rear of the vehicle, and that’s when she saw Hughes, who lived close by on South Outer, run by her “right when I turned around,” she said.
“He looked me in my face and said, ‘Jeff dead. That (expletive) supposed to have been dead,'” the woman testified.
Reynolds was one of five victims in the 2004 shooting inside Captains Cove bar in Old Town Saginaw. More than 12 years later, he succumbed almost immediately to a gunshot wound to the left side of his head.
Nearly seven weeks after Reynolds’ death, prosecutors charged Hughes, 32, with an open count of murder and 12 other felonies.
After listening to six witnesses — and to Brown, who also was shot in the incident and invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination — Presiding District Judge Terry L. Clark on Thursday concluded Hughes’ preliminary hearing by ruling prosecutors showed probable cause to take Hughes to trial in Circuit Court.
‘Where’s the pistol?’
About three hours before the shooting, Reynolds’ girlfriend and two of her friends met him at a bar in Flint. They left about 2 a.m. and were on their back to the girlfriend’s house in Buena Vista when Reynolds received a call about a “kickback,” or smaller party, on Arlington, his girlfriend said. When they arrived at the home on Arlington, which is west of Westbrook near Hess and South Outer, there was a large group of people outside; the girlfriend estimated about 80 people, while one of her friends estimated about 30.
The girlfriend and one of her friends, neither of whom The Saginaw News is naming at police request, said that when they exited the vehicle, a fight was happening that caused the crowd to start shifting away. As Reynolds and the females were walking, Brown grabbed the girlfriend’s waist from behind, the girlfriend said. She yelled at him to get away from her and questioned why she would do that in front of Reynolds, the women testified.
Reynolds then started “having words” with Brown, also known as J.B., and Hughes, also known as “Jays,” the women said. The girlfriend’s friend testified Brown, 36, and Hughes both were wearing white t-shirts. Both women testified they did not see any of the three men with guns.
The girlfriend’s friend said she tried to pull the girlfriend away from the confrontation, but she was unsuccessful. The friend said she and her other friend then walked away, and as they did, she heard a gunshot from behind them. She said she also heard a man say, “That’s that (expletive) Jay, he’s supposed to be dead anyway. Where’s the pistol?”
Reynolds and his girlfriend eventually got back to her vehicle, and the girlfriend walked him to the passenger side, where he waited for her to get the driver’s side and unlock the doors, the girlfriend’s friend testified. As the girlfriend walked around the vehicle, two men wearing white t-shirts ran up on Reynolds from the front of the vehicle, the friend testified. She was unable to identify those men, but she said she “figured” it was Hughes and Brown.
One of the men approached Reynolds’ left side, and one approached his right side, the friend said. That’s when the friend heard a “pow” and saw the men run toward the rear of the vehicle and saw Reynolds fall onto his back, she said.
The girlfriend also heard the gunshot and yelled for her boyfriend, she said. While she said Hughes’ statement to her about Reynolds was not a confession, he “looked evil.”
The friend testified she ran told Reynolds’ girlfriend in an effort to prevent her from seeing Reynolds, who was not moving, had blood “everywhere” on his face, and had his eyes open. That effort was unsuccessful, as the girlfriend saw Reynolds and called 911. She does not remember much of what she said, she testified.
“I was freaking out,” she said.
In an unusual move, Fehrman called Saginaw County Forensic Pathologist Dr. Kanu Virani to testify regarding the autopsy he performed on Reynolds. Recent state law allows for the admission of autopsy results into evidence at the preliminary hearing stage without the testimony of the author of the report.
Virani said Reynolds suffered a gunshot wound to the left side of his head between his eye and ear. The bullet traveled through Reynolds’ sinuses, grazed the bottom of his brain, and exited the right side of his head, Virani testified.
The bullet perforating the sinuses caused blood to enter into Reynolds lungs, which he ultimately aspirated on and died, Virani said.
Reynolds also suffered stippling wounds that were the result of gunpowder touching his face. Stippling only is possible when a gun is fired at close range to the victim, and Virani estimated that, based on the pattern of the stippling, the end of the barrel of the gun was about “10 to 12 inches away” from Reynolds.
Pleading the Fifth
About the same time the men in white t-shirts were running away, a white Buick Equinox pulled up behind the girlfriend’s vehicle, the friend testified. The girlfriend’s uncle exited the driver’s seat and tried to console his niece, but he also tried to tell her to remain quiet and not tell the police anything, the friend testified.
The uncle got back in his vehicle and left, the friend testified. At least one of the men in a white t-shirt also entered the uncle’s vehicle before it left, the friend said.
The girlfriend also testified regarding a video that the uncle posted on Facebook on June 18. The title of the video was “No statement. No case. (Expletive).”
In the video, the uncle raps and then, in an intimidating tone, repeats the title of the video, Fehrman said. The girlfriend testified the video had an impact on her willingness to testify.
Fehrman said authorities served a subpoena on the uncle to testify, but he did not appear Thursday. Fehrman asked for a bench warrant for his arrest, and Clark granted the request.
Clark on Wednesday issued a material witness warrant for Brown. As police were making arrangements to have Brown arrested, he turned himself in to District Court authorities, prosecutors said.
Dressed in a jail jumpsuit and accompanied by attorney Michael Oakes, Brown took the witness stand Thursday and invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. Assistant Prosecutor Paul Fehrman tried asking Brown questions about a picture of him and Hughes taken multiple weeks after the shooting, but Brown would not answer those questions, either.
Clark said he only issued the warrant because Brown was a flight risk, as he and Hughes and a third man traveled to Marietta, Georgia, following the homicide. Clark, who released Brown from custody, noted he was aware of the likelihood that Brown would not testify because of a potential involvement in the homicide.
Clark and Fehrman also openly discussed the fact that the prosecutor’s office now must decide what to do with Brown, who does not face any charges in connection with the incident. Oakes, meanwhile, took objection to Fehrman using the terms “defendants” multiple times.
Brown’s mother, Sonja Brown, confirmed her son was in Georgia. She said she took Brown to Ohio following the incident out of concern for their safety. She said that after that, Brown ended up in Georgia with Hughes, but she did not know how he got down there.
Buena Vista police on July 12 arrested Hughes, and prosecutors issued charges two days later.
The open count of murder Hughes faces includes first-degree premeditated murder and second-degree murder. The former carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole, and the latter carries a maximum possible penalty of life with parole.
Hughes also faces single counts of felonious assault, or assault with a dangerous weapon, and resisting and obstructing a police officer. Those are in relation to when Michigan State Police Detective Sgt. Jim Bush arrived at the scene.
Hughes also is charged with two counts of possessing a firearm as a felon, single counts of carrying a dangerous weapon with unlawful intent and possessing ammunition as a felon, and six counts of possessing a firearm during the commission of a felony-second offense.
He remains jailed without bond.