published Wednesday, July 17th, 2013

After emotional hearing, 2012 Chattanooga slaying case sent to grand jury

A court hearing Tuesday morning started and ended in tears.

First, Constance Taylor, the lifelong friend of murder suspect Stephen "Dollar Bill" Mobley, testified that she was with him on June 1, 2012, when Gregory Watkins was shot and killed.

Taylor murmured answers to prosecutor Lance Pope's questions as she recounted what led to Watkins' death.

Watkins had sold marijuana to Taylor, but the drug was of a poor quality. She called him to trade the drugs back for money. Watkins agreed to meet her at her mother's home.

But when Taylor's mother showed up, Watkins drove away and called Taylor to meet him at a gas station at 3410 Brainerd Road to do the deal.

What Watkins didn't know was that Mobley, 29, and some of his friends were riding in the car with Taylor.

When they arrived at the gas station, Taylor testified, Mobley put on a dreadlock, Rastafarian-style wig, got out of the car and walked to Watkins' Toyota Corolla.

"What happened when you got to the gas station?" Pope asked.

"Mr. Mobley got out of the car and shot Mr. Watkins," Taylor answered.

Mobley's gunfire killed Watkins and struck Lashonda Gonzalez, Watkin's passenger, she testified.

Then Gonzalez came to the stand and answered Pope's questions flatly until he reached the most traumatic memories and she too began to cry.

She was with Watkins leading up to the shooting and saw the shooter fire into the car and then run back across the parking lot.

Gonzalez has bullet wounds to her left hip and two places on her left arm.

But last year, days after the shooting, Gonzalez had identified another man from a police photo lineup as the killer.

Police arrested Stephen "Black Magic" Lebron Hill after the incident. He later was released and charges dismissed.

Both Hill and Mobley are black men in their 20s.

Gonzalez, who is white, described the shooter as "dark-skinned" with long dreadlocks.

Hill has a darker complexion than Mobley and, at the time, had a dreadlock hairstyle. Mobley has a beard, shaved head and is fair-skinned by comparison.

Mobley's defense attorney, John Wysong, argued those points to Sessions Court Judge David Bales.

"The person that was closest to the scene of this incident has identified someone entirely different than my client in this shooting," Wysong said.

Pope argued that, "It's easy to confuse witnesses when you take steps to mask your identification," referring to the wig Taylor said Mobley put on before the shooting.

Bales agreed there was probable cause and set a $1.35 million bond for Mobley, whose case was sent to the grand jury for possible indictment.

Part of the high bond was due to Mobley's previous conviction for involuntary manslaughter in 2005 for the death of Elton Deandra Hall. Mobley was sentenced to six years for that crime.

As Mobley left the courtroom a woman in the audience cried, "I love you."

Mobley replied, "I love you too. It's gonna be alright."

Contact staff writer Todd South at tsouth@timesfree press.com or 423-757-6347. Follow him on Twitter @tsouthCTFP.

about Todd South...

Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...

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