published Thursday, October 20th, 2011

Investigators say Ellison made up gun threat story

TRENTON, Ga. -- An investigator testified in a 19-year-old man's murder trial that the defendant said he had hit the victim after being threatened with a gun during a drug deal.

But former Dade County Sheriff's Detective Brittany Gilleland told jurors Wednesday that authorities never found a gun and Johnathan Ellison later admitted he made up the story.

Gilleland testified for the prosecution during Ellison's trial in the stabbing death of 35-year-old Antwane Hyatte. Ellison is charged with two counts of felony murder and one count each of malice murder, aggravated assault and armed robbery.

John Oglesby, 27, faces the same charges in the case. His trial is set for next year.

On Wednesday, the jury was shown a video of Ellison's interview by Gilleland and former Detective Nathan Lee hours after he was arrested March 17.

The defense had tried to keep the two-hour video from being shown on the grounds that the interview was improperly conducted, but Superior Court Judge Brian House allowed it.

On the video, Ellison, 19, appears nervous. He keeps his head down and can barely be heard whispering throughout the interview.

After being asked multiple times by investigators if he was only defending himself, Ellison says Hyatte pulled a gun when they were exchanging marijuana during a drug deal at Ellison's home. With more coaxing, Ellison tells investigators he punched Hyatte in the face, then stabbed him several times in the stomach.

"I didn't want him to be hurt," Ellison whispered. "I just wanted him to get off me."

The tape shows Ellison reluctant to answer questions about Oglesby, who was in Ellison's home when Hyatte was killed.

Georgia Bureau of Investigation medical experts testified earlier Wednesday about Hyatte's autopsy results and the DNA found on two knives in the house.

Forensic analyst Kanesha Leiu testified that one knife contained DNA from Hyatte, but the other blade had DNA that wasn't from Hyatte, Ellison or Oglesby.

Later, another forensic expert testified that she found the tip of a knife lodged inside Hyatte's back when she examined him.

GBI Medical Examiner Dr. Stacey Desamours testified that she identified 16 stab wounds on Hyatte's body, one that had pierced his heart and another that left the knife tip embedded in his back.

But no explanation was given in court for where the knife came from or to whom it belonged.

Testimony will continue today with more recorded interviews with Ellison.

about Joy Lukachick Smith...

Joy Lukachick Smith is the city government reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Since 2009, she's covered crime and court systems in North Georgia and rural Tennessee, landed an exclusive in-prison interview with a former cop convicted of killing his wife, exposed impropriety in an FBI-led, child-sex online sting and exposed corruption in government agencies. Earlier this year, Smith won the Malcolm Law Memorial Award for Investigative Reporting. She also won first place in ...

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