A judge today found substantial probability that Charles Coates killed his younger cousin, possibly for $200 to help pay a cable bill.
Judge Gerald Fisher made that decision after hearing testimony from an MPD homicide detective involved in the case and watching a 45-minute taped interview that Coates gave at police headquarters when he was brought in for questioning.
Assistant US Attorney Emily Miller laid out a complicated case for the court Tuesday, drawing on statements from a half dozen witnesses as well as teasing out inconstancies in Coates’s various accounts for what happened the night his cousin, Eddie Leonard Jr., was killed.
Coates’ defense attorney, Elizabeth Mullin, argued that prosecutors could not pick and choose which pieces of Coates’ statement they wanted to be believed and which ones should be regarded as false.
According to charging documents in the case, Coates spoke with investigators twice about Leonard’s death: once while riding to the Homicide Branch for an interview and again during that interview.
Detective Michael Fulton testified Tuesday that Coates wasn’t a suspect until he started talking to police. Fulton said detectives initially went to Coates’ home to interview him.
“We firmly believed he was just a witness,” Fulton testified.
That changed when Fulton, en route with Coates to police headquarters, asked Coates about what happened that night, Fulton said.
Coates said he and Leonard intended to purchase PCP the night Leonard was killed. The two drove together to Langston Terrace for that purpose. Once they got there Leonard wandered off on his own at which point he was shot, Coates told investigators. Coates said he heard a gunshot and “someone from the neighborhood came and told him [Leonard] had been shot.”
Later, in an interview at police headquarters, Coates said he and Leonard had planned to rob the PCP dealer that night. As the three of them walked down the ally, Leonard pulled out a pistol and pointed it at the dealer, who then pulled his pistol and fired it at Leonard, striking him.
Leonard was shot once at close range from behind his right ear, Fulton said. Also, Coates, who claimed to have ran from the scene of the shooting and jumped on a Metro bus, is not depicted in any Metro bus video surveillance from that night. And the drug dealer, identified as Haywood, was with a friend through most of that night and is not believed to have been in the alley when Leonard was shot.
Miller, the prosecutor, said the government’s case rests in part on the belief that Leonard was robbed during his killing. Employed and making $11 an hour, Leonard had withdrawn $200 from his bank account less than two days before he was killed. His father saw him with a bank roll of about that same amount the night he was killed, but only $20 was found on his body. Coates, meanwhile, needed $396 to pay a cable bill which was due Feb. 25.
A family member of both Coates and Leonard said that after Leonard was killed, Coates came to him and wanted to explain “what happened.” That person told police that Coates then said he “didn’t do it” because he had $400.