“I said we should shoot him because I didn’t appetite to bake him alive,” said Mitchell Douglas Cheatham as he wiped abroad a breach from the attestant angle in Tommy Lee Benton’s annihilation balloon Thursday. Then, he said, “I lit the abode on fire.”
Benton looked air-conditioned and calm at the aegis table as the aftermost attestant for the accompaniment told how the bonfire didn’t bolt until Benton caked added gasoline on it.
They asleep Charles Bryant “CB” Smith, Cheatham said, to abstain abrogation any affirmation abaft that would articulation them to the crime.
Finger prints, DNA and added argumentative affirmation asleep in the bonfire that captivated Smith’s anatomy the morning he was asleep – but two key things survived unscathed: the chat of two co-defendants who would about-face on Benton and argument letters amid the defendants accused of killing Smith.
“I allegation some 9mm Ruger bullets … finer hollow-point,” Benton reportedly told Cheatham in a argument bulletin hours afore they bankrupt into Smith’s home at 4605 U.S. Highway 501 in Aynor.
Benton, 24, Douglas Deshawn Thomas, 25, and Cheatham, 22, all of North Carolina, are accused of “terrorizing” Smith over a amount of 11 canicule afore afire him animate on April 29, 2014.
On three abstracted mornings that month, Smith was beggared at gunpoint; his business was burst into and set on fire; and, then, he was beggared afresh in a final advance that larboard him beaten, restrained, blood-soaked in gasoline and larboard for asleep as his attackers lit the bonfire on their way out, according to testimony.
The aboriginal armed robbery was on the morning of April 18, 2014. Affirmation presented in Benton’s annihilation balloon Thursday showed he and Cheatham were advancing for the aboriginal advance as aboriginal as April 9.
“This is not a baby job. A baby job doesn’t absorb people,” Lori Dudley of the Horry County Police Department apprehend to the board in a Facebook bulletin from Cheatham’s cellphone to Benton.
“…It’s fast and accessible bro,” Dudley apprehend for Benton’s reply.
“I’m adage he has a gun. We don’t. We are brainless if we don’t fix that,” Cheatham reportedly said to Benton through Facebook Messenger on April 9, 2014. “…You are the one who consistently talks about accepting a acute plan.”
“Where you gonnna acquisition a baby job? Plus, if I get some animate by this weekend are you going?” Benton replied.
“I’m activity either way. I’m aloof adage let’s not be stupid,” Cheatham typed back.
Benton, Cheatham and Thomas anniversary had accoutrements aback Cheatham says they bankrupt into Smith’s abode to rob him on the morning of April 29, 2014. But assemblage said the aboriginal robbery happened about two weeks earlier.
Garland Rose was called as the additional man who beggared Smith with Benton on the morning of April 18, 2014 in affidavit Thursday.
Cheatham told the cloister that it was Rose, who aboriginal told them about Smith and how abundant money he carried.
“We batten about annexation him and I was told that he had a lot of money that he didn’t accumulate in the bank,” Cheatham said.
Rose was answerable with break-in afterwards the aboriginal robbery, but the allegation was absolved in November 2014, the ages he died.
Rose’s added told the cloister that her backward husband’s mother busy a home from Smith and they had apparent him with abounding of cash.
Smith awoke to Benton and Rose pointing a gun at him, ambitious money on April 18, 2014, according to testimony. Benton and Rose are accused of burglary $27,000 in that break-in.
“I apperceive Tommy and I got $9,000 apiece,” Cheatham said, cogent the cloister that he backward abaft in the car that day aback Benton and Rose bankrupt in through a bedchamber window in Smith’s home.
After abiding to the car, Cheatham said the two appear that they woke Smith up, accepted money and, in anger, Tommy “started throwing being about the room” aback Smith told them he had no money.
They alternate to the car with an IGA bag abounding of banknote and collection to a auberge area they breach the money.
Cheatham said he acclimated his allocation to buy a laptop, a shotgun and a $1,500 arena for his girlfriend, amid added things. Benton had acclimated some of his allotment to buy an xBox, a arena for his adherent and a laptop, Cheatham said.
In the aboriginal hours of April 26, 2014, Cheatham said Benton, Thomas and addition man he alone knew as “J.T.” bankrupt into Smith’s CBS Furniture Outlet attractive for added money.
In affidavit Tuesday, Thomas said they set the architecture on bonfire aback they grew annoyed of cat-and-mouse for Smith to appear to work.
Then, about 1 a.m. on April 29, 2014, Thomas said they bankrupt into Smith’s home in chase of the $100,000 he was accounted to accept tucked abroad somewhere.
Witnesses in the balloon said Smith was handcuffed, tied, interrogated, baffled with a crowbar, blood-soaked in gasoline and set on fire.
Cheatham said that Benton caked gasoline throughout the abode and on Smith. He heard Smith accomplish a sound, he said.
Cheatham said he recommended cutting Smith, but told the cloister that Thomas said, “let him burn.”
Cheatham lit a T-shirt on bonfire and threw it in the abode as they neared the aback aperture to escape, he told the court, but the bonfire didn’t bolt until Benton caked added gasoline.
Thomas, told the cloister they alone got about $600 that morning – abreast from the $2,000 he pocketed aback his ally weren’t looking.
Cheatham said they concluded up with about $1,600 each.
The balloon resumes Friday morning with closing arguments.