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Trial in 2016 Longview shooting death begins

Megan Hix

By Megan Hix
Nov. 28, 2017 at 11:48 p.m.

Brenndrick Lilly, right, went on trial for murder Tuesday in the 124th District Court at the Gregg County Courthouse. He is charged with aggravated robbery and murder in the death of Devin Newson in 2016 at a Longview convenience store.

Prosecutors in the trial of a man accused in a 2016 Longview homicide said a "lifestyle" of drug dealing ultimately cost the victim his life after a robbery set up under the guise of a drug deal escalated into murder.

Brenndrick Kesean Lilly, 22, is charged with aggravated robbery and murder in the death of Devin Newson. The state called several witnesses Tuesday, the first day of Lilly's trial.

Lilly is charged along with Kentrell Jorail Smith, 21, and Kambresha Shante Williams, 22, both of Longview.

Warrants show that what started out as a robbery on May 23, 2016, evolved into homicide at a convenience store near Interstate 20.

Gregg County Assistant District Attorney Chris Botto said during opening statements that "marijuana was a gateway drug ... to a lifestyle" of drug dealing that led to Newson's death.

"Newson set up a drug deal with someone he trusted, with a woman he had regular contact with," Botto said. "(Lilly, Smith and Williams) set (Newson) up to rob him. They wanted to steal his marijuana and his money."

Botto said the trio got Newson to go to his usual selling spot, a Food Fast convenience store, where he was shot in the chest.

Defense attorney John Moore asked jurors during his opening statements to think critically about the evidence presented against Lilly.

"What I want you to do is pay attention to who is saying what and consider why," Moore said.

Four of the seven witnesses called by the state during the first day of testimony were Longview police officers who responded to the scene. Two others were detectives who lifted Lilly's fingerprints from Newson's car.

East Texas Police Academy instructor Travis Prew, who was a Longview police detective in May 2016, was in charge of examining Newson's car for evidence. He said he was able to lift multiple prints that matched Lilly's left palm from Newson's driver's side window.

He said officers found a spent, or fired, bullet in Newson's car and a bullet casing at the crime scene.

Attorneys showed jurors pictures of what police saw at the scene, including photos of Newson, who was found dead in a vehicle crashed into a metal storage facility.

Officer Eric Harkins said Newson likely was unconscious during the wreck, and he was dead when the officer arrived at the scene.

"There was no doubt he was shot," Harkins said. "(The wound) wasn't from a car wreck."

Prew said the bullet found in Newson's car had "tumbled," meaning it went end over end, rather than straight ahead. He said this is a sign that it went through more than Newson's chest.

A photograph of Newson's hand, the defense said, indicates the victim was in a defensive pose with his arm raised, based on the trajectory of the bullet that entered Newson's side after traveling through his hand.

Williams said Newson and Lilly struggled over the gun before it was fired, according to an arrest warrant.

Other officers described the placement of bullets found at the scene, a video taken by a witness to the wreck and what Williams told police after she returned to the scene.

Officer Trenton Capps said Williams told him she was talking to Newson when a man held a gun to her head and said "give me your money."

Williams later told officers that Lilly was the one who shot Newson after she was "forced" to set up the drug deal, according to the warrant.

The trial is set to resume at 9 a.m. today in the 124th District Court.

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