A former Hancock College football player and the prosecution’s major witness resumed testifying Tuesday morning in the trial involving two former basketball stars charged with the 2014 fatal shooting of Terence Richardson during a drug deal in Santa Maria.
Lavell White and Ali Mohammed are on trial for robbery and burglary charges, in addition to the alleged shooting of Richardson on East Jones and South Bradley streets Dec. 30, 2014. It is alleged that Mohammed wielded the firearm during the incident.
Former Hancock football player Gentry Oden, who moved back to Michigan following the pair’s arrests in 2015, continued testifying Tuesday morning in Lompoc Superior Court. He claimed he witnessed the defendants approach drug dealer Ryan DePalma’s car Dec. 30, saw the commotion and heard two gunshots before DePalma drove away.
Oden allegedly confessed to detectives in earlier interviews that he acted as a lookout during four different burglaries and facilitated the robberies reportedly committed by White and Mohammed. His password-protected cellphone also was used to direct DePalma to the College Garden apartments the night Richardson was shot.
DePalma was driving the car, with Richardson in the passenger seat, according to earlier testimony.
Under defense attorney Michael Scott’s questioning, Oden admitted he never was arrested or charged for any of the crimes he allegedly facilitated or was involved in, even after lying to detectives multiple times during his interviews — one on Jan. 10, 2015, and another on Feb. 10, 2015.
In the Jan. 10 interview, Oden told Santa Maria Police that he let someone use his phone Dec. 30, 2014, which was actually a lie, he testified Tuesday.
Oden also admitted first telling police he didn’t know who DePalma was, didn’t know what his phone was being used for, and denied knowing anything about the shooting, which were all lies, he testified.
“You said, ‘I ain’t got nothing to do with nothing,’ to detectives, correct?” Scott asked, which Oden confirmed was a lie.
Throughout the interview, police continued pressing Oden into telling the truth, and became frustrated, according to testimony. On his end, Oden testified that he lied to police about everything — including what the defendants did outside during the drug deal, where they got the gun, the time frame of the event and where the pair went after Richardson was shot.
As officers informed Oden that Mohammed was on his way to the police station to give his statements, they said, “[Mohammed] will tell us you have a lot more to do with it, and you can go down for this crime, and you won’t have a chance after this,” according to interview transcripts.
It is then Oden told officers that Mohammed had the black gun used to shoot Richardson, according to his testimony. When asked if he heard Mohammed say anything after he and White came back in from the incident, Oden admitted he told detectives he heard Mohammed say, “I had to. I ain’t got no choice.”
During his Feb. 10 interview in Michigan with Santa Maria Police, Oden testified that he entered an agreement with police promising to disclose all the details, and in return, he wouldn’t be arrested or charged, nor would his statements be used against him. However, he testified Tuesday that he lied about a few things during that interview, as well.
Scott then shifted his focus to the text messages exchanged between his phone and DePalma’s phone Dec. 30. Oden admitted he called DePalma only to ask about his marijuana prices but maintained that he couldn’t recall whether he sent any following text messages after that initial call.
“At 10:53 p.m. it reads: ‘Yes I called you, just wanted to get 1,’ did you send that?” Scott asked.
“This is from my phone but I told you, I just made a few contacts with [DePalma]; I can’t tell you which ones they are,” Oden replied.
Scott then referred to Oden’s Feb. 10 interview transcripts, pointing out Oden’s statement to police admitting that he was the one who did send the message to DePalma about pot prices Dec. 30.
“Is that your text message?” Scott asked, to which Oden answered, “I can’t recall.”
“You can’t recall,” Scott repeated. “Then, DePalma replies, ‘one ounce?’ and your phone replies, ‘Yeah.’ Did you send that text?
Then your phone sends, ‘Fsho.’ Is that an expression you commonly use?” Scott pressed again, which Oden affirmed.
As Scott read each text exchange — from setting a meeting time to determining a meeting place — Oden contended he didn’t recall if he or someone else had sent those messages to DePalma from Oden’s phone.
“You do recall in the Feb. 10 interview telling police the only contact you had with DePalma was the initial inquiry asking about prices?” Scott asked again, which Oden affirmed.
“And you denied having any other contact with DePalma as seen on your phone?” Oden also affirmed that statement.
“Is that the truth or a lie?” Scott asked.
“I don’t know,” Oden replied. “I can’t recall now.”
Cross-examination resumes Wednesday morning.
Gina Kim covers crime and courts for Santa Maria Times. Follow her on Twitter @gina_k210