After holding two days of testimony from more than 16 witnesses and another partial day to wrap up the preliminary exam of three defendants charged with murder, 34th District Court Judge Tina Brooks Green bound them all over to circuit court to stand trial on the charges.
If they are found guilty they would all face life in prison. Their arraignments on the information are scheduled for 9 a.m., April 1, at the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice in Detroit.
All three have been held in the Wayne County Jail without bond since they were arrested late last year in the June 22, 2017, murder of Jacqueline Elizabeth “Egypt” Covington, 27, in her Van Buren Township duplex.
Egypt was a 2007 graduate of Belleville High School and a popular local singer. She was employed as an account manager for beer and wine distributor Rave and had worked at Johnny’s and Bayou Grill in Belleville.
All of the evidence in the case had been sealed by order of Judge Green until this preliminary exam.
• Timothy Eugene Moore, 35, of Toledo: first-degree premeditated murder, felony murder, home invasion first degree and four weapons charges.
• Shandon R Groom, 28, of Toledo: felony murder, home invasion first degree, first-degree premeditated murder, and three weapons charges.
• Shane Lamar Evans, 32, of Sumpter Township: felony murder, home invasion first degree, and two charges of felony firearm.
Moore and Evans are brothers and Groom is Moore’s cousin.
Wayne County Assistant Prosecutor Victoria Shackelford led the witnesses to tell the story of the investigation and then summed it up in a final statement.
Art Richardson was the first witness and he said he had known Groom for ten years. On June 6, 2017, Groom accompanied Richardson to Toledo Municipal Court. Richardson was driving his blue 2009 Ram truck. Richardson was sentenced to six months in jail and was taken into immediate custody. He said the sheriff handed Groom his friend’s truck keys and he may have driven it home, although he didn’t have a driver’s license. Richardson said his phone was in his truck and he didn’t get out of jail until November.
Richardson had been arrested by Michigan State Police on first-degree murder charges, but the charges were dismissed when police learned Ohio officials had failed to tell them Richardson had been in jail at the time of the murder.
Richardson testified that the truck was parked on Bloom Street in Toledo when he got out of jail and its motor had been blown. His phone was in the apartment he owned at that address. Richardson testified he had never seen Timothy Moore at the time but Moore was dating Felicia Dillard, a cousin.
He testified the truck was registered in his little brother’s name, Arthur Greenly.
Testimony showed on June 12, 2017, Moore and Evans were in a vehicle accident in Ann Arbor and taken to the hospital. That was ten days before the murder.
Danielle Mauss testified that Moore was staying at Nicole Dillard’s house in 2017, but Danielle helped him after his accident. She testified he was seriously injured in the shoulder and ribs and wore a neck brace. She said she had to help him off the couch.
She said twin daughters were born to Moore in a hospital in Toledo on June 5, 2017. She testified she went to the hospital with him from June 5 to the end of July to visit the babies. On the night of the murder the babies were still in the hospital. Mauss testified she never saw Moore drive a blue Dodge Ram.
She testified Evans was in the hospital after the accident at least 24 hours and he checked out after Moore. Mauss said Moore left against medical advice and walked out with cords hanging down.
Prosecutor Shackelford said Moore was doing tattoos for Groom and friends in the home of Nicole Dillard in Toledo early in the evening of June 22, 2017. They left together and drove a blue pickup up I-75 to I-275, getting off at the Huron exit and ending up at Evan’s home on Judd Road in Sumpter Township.
When Moore and Groom decided they wanted some marijuana, Evans led them to a duplex on Hull Road. Evans said a guy who grew marijuana lived there and he was gone to the Electric Forest festival and his place was empty. He knows because he cuts grass at the home.
Evans drove a borrowed older Chrysler 300 north on Sumpter Road and turned left on Hull, with a pickup truck carrying Moore and Groom following. In a statement to the Michigan State Police, Evans said he and his girlfriend were in the car and he stopped and pointed to the duplex where Egypt Covington lived inside the door on the left and Steven Edwards and Megan Coppock lived in the unit behind the door on the right.
He said he told them to enter the door on the right and then he drove off with his girlfriend and spent the night with her. He said he did get a text from Moore saying, “Wrong door. Oops.”
According to Prosecutor Shackelford, Covington was sitting on her couch watching her favorite movie alone when the two entered her home, tied her wrists with Christmas lights behind her back, picked up a couch pillow and shot through the pillow, one shot to the back of her head.
The two were in Covington’s home for about five minutes and then left, taking her personal cellphone with them. They threw the phone out the window near the Huron entrance to I-275 as they drove the pickup back to Toledo. The phone eventually lost power and died.
Curtis Meadows said he found the body of his girlfriend in her home at about 7:30 p.m. June 23, 2017, after being unable to reach her by phone all day. He testified they had exchanged “sweet dreams” texts at about 10 p.m. on June 22, 2017.
He testified that when he got to her home the outer duplex door was wide open and her inner door on the left was cracked open four to five inches. He went inside, screamed her name and her dog Ruby greeted him and led him to the body in a pool of blood. He ran out to his vehicle where his phone was and called 911.
There was no sign of a break-in, police report.
Van Buren Township Police investigated the murder for three years and then in late summer of 2020 turned it over to the Michigan State Police. Within a few months, MSP started making arrests.
Shackelford had a long line of officers testify from the Michigan State Police, and also from Van Buren Township Police and FBI, along with Covington’s friends and a relative.
Circumstantial evidence came from the locations of various cellphones as proven by cell towers, Google geofence, and other techniques, and surveillance footage from the Citgo gas station at the corner of Hull and Sumpter roads, showing the Chrysler 300 and pickup in the area at the time of the murder.
VBT Police Sgt. Michael Rini, who was a patrol officer in 2017, testified he was called to the scene of the murder as a certified evidence technician and he collected evidence, put it in bags, and turned it in to the evidence room at police headquarters.
He said when he got there at about 7:45 p.m. June 23, 2017, he found the deceased female bound behind her back with a white strand of Christmas lights and trauma to the head. He said there was an empty shell casing (which turned out to be 9mm) and small amounts of marijuana throughout the apartment – not large amounts, he said.
He said the medical examiner came and removed the lights easily, since they were loose, and he placed them into an evidence bag. There also was a marijuana smoking pipe. He said a couch cushion had been fired through. There was a black iPhone with a black case and charger (which later was identified as her work phone).
During cross-examination, Moore’s defense attorney Kristina Joseph noted the Van Buren Police Department no longer has the couch cushion and the phone was erased and asked if that was done by somebody in the property room.
“I don’t know what happened after I put it in the property room,” Sgt. Rini testified.
Lindsey Briley, Egypt’s friend since grade school, testified she and Covington attended sessions at Starseed Yoga in Canton on the night of the murder and they parted around 8:45 p.m. She said Covington always had the Christmas lights around the back door.
Under cross examination by Joseph, Briley testified Covington liked older, white men, but also dated colored men and women. She said Curtis Meadows wanted to move in with Covington and Covington wanted to clean up the house.
Briley testified that Covington had had issues with her former boyfriend Kenny Michalak, but that is not the only person she had issues with. She said a month before her death Covington got in a car accident and Michalak helped her with a down payment for a new vehicle and she was driving that vehicle on the night she went to yoga before her death. Michalak also would take care of her dog Ruby when she was out of town and he likely had the code to her front door. The two had an argument at Strawberry Festival a week before her death about Curtis moving in.
Steven Edwards testified that Evans worked for A&J Lawncare, who cut the lawn of the duplex on June 21. He said the company was owned by Antoine Jordan and Johnny Warren. He said he had puppies in his side of the duplex and Egypt was going to take care of them while they were gone to the festival.
He said Egypt had a drunk driving problem so she couldn’t get a driver’s license, so Kenny got her car insurance and in June 2017 she was still on his insurance. Edwards said when he and Coppock left for the festival they left the TV on, the lights on, and car in the driveway to make it look like it was occupied. He testified nothing was taken from either side of the duplex.
He said he had three ounces of marijuana in his cupboard. Edwards said he is a licensed caregiver, but he grows elsewhere.
He testified about five years earlier Egypt and Kyle Covington moved into that side of the duplex and she put lights over the curtain rod and plugged it in.
During discussions on March 25, defense attorney Joseph said there is no testimony saying the lights have Moore’s DNA on them, but that they are investigating further. “There’s no other DNA of his in the house,” she said.
“It doesn’t make sense to go in the home, tie up and shoot them to rob a home for marijuana,” Joseph said.
Judge Green said the neighbor Steven Edwards had testified that his home was broken into for THC-related things that were stolen earlier in 2017. She said you can’t say nobody’s going to break in to steal marijuana.
Judge Green said dispensaries are more expensive and it’s cheaper to buy from the guy on the corner.
“Tie her up and then shoot her doesn’t make sense,” Judge Green agreed.
Groom’s defense attorney David Goldstein said there is no evidence in his client’s case of firearms. He should not be bound over on firearms, Goldstein said. You have to know what is happening to aid and abet, he said.
Goldstein said while a case can be made on circumstantial evidence, 99.97% of the evidence against his client is circumstantial. He said they can show on June 22 where the phone was, maybe, and they can show where the truck was, maybe, but not where Groom was after dusk when he and Moore walked out of the home in Toledo together.
He said officer in charge MSP Det./Sgt. James Plummer testified the driver was a light-skinned black man from what he could see on the Citgo surveillance tapes.
Evans’ defense attorney Coral Watt disputed adding the felony firearm counts to her client’s charges. She said the testimony was that Evans knew they carried weapons, but didn’t know if they had weapons that day.
She said Evans didn’t want to participate and he didn’t participate. He pointed out the house where he believed nobody was home.
Prosecutor Shackelford withdrew two felony firearm charges for Evans. She also withdrew count 4 of Moore’s charges, possession of firearm by a felon, since they didn’t have evidence he had or held the gun.
Judge Green read a statement that said the court believes there is probable cause to believe the specific phones associated with Moore and Groom were present at the murder scene, along with Richardson’s pickup, as circumstantial evidence.
Judge Green said there is an issue of fact for a jury to make a decision. There is probable cause that a crime was committed and these defendants were involved in committing that crime.
She said Groom was charged with first-degree murder because a pillow was taken and put over the face before shooting. There was a pause that rises to premeditation.
Gene Laroy Carrier, Jr.
Gene Laroy Carrier, Jr., 59, of Van Buren Township was before Judge Green by zoom for his probable cause conference on March 3 and then again on March 24. Defense attorney is Scott Weinberg. The probable cause conference now is set for 9:45 a.m., April 7, before Judge Martin.
Carrier is facing a charge of assault with a dangerous weapon (felonious assault) on Oct. 27 in the city of Belleville.
Sonya Gasper, 45, of Sumpter Township is charged with two counts of welfare fraud on April 19, 2016. Her probable cause conference exam was adjourned until April 14 before Judge Martin.
The case is brought by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and court records show on March 2 the Inspector General’s office called the court regarding the sworn warrant and the Attorney General’s office called seeking information on the case.
The case was entered Oct. 5, 2020.
The adjournment of the probable cause conference was by Judge Green on March 24. Assistant Attorney General Robert Hayes was present by zoom and he said Gasper has repaid all restitution and they need extra time to get the charges resolved.
Jonathan Hordos of Neighborhood Defender Service had been serving as defense attorney, but it was noted that Gasper retained Maurice Davis as defense attorney a day before this hearing.
Lillie Lee Heard
Lillie Lee Heard, 40, of Van Buren Township is set to hold a live preliminary exam before Judge Green on May 5 on charges of home invasion-1st degree, malicious destruction of property, and two charges of aggravated assault on Sept. 22 in Van Buren Township.
She is free on $5,000 personal bond. Defense attorney is William Noakes.
Joseph Cory Johnson
Joseph Cory Johnson, 28, of Van Buren Township, was due for his live preliminary exam on March 24 before Judge Green. He had been charged with two counts of domestic violence – third offense and one count of assaulting / resisting / obstructing a police officer on Sept. 26 in the city of Belleville.
All charges were dismissed, the case closed, and conditional bond canceled on March 24.
Ronald Joseph Webb
Ronald Joseph Webb of Van Buren Township, was before Judge Green on March 24 for a preliminary exam via zoom on charges of home invasion-1st degree and assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder on July 13 in Van Buren Township.
He was free on personal bond of $10,000.
On March 24, all counts were dismissed on the motion of the defendant and the bond was canceled. Robert Burton-Harris was defense attorney.
William Oliver Wood
William Oliver Wood, 36, of Southgate had his probable cause conference adjourned to April 7 on a charge of possession of narcotics (fentanyl) less than 25 grams on Oct. 6, 2019 in Van Buren Township.
He was present before Judge Green via zoom from Team Wellness on March 24. Wood was free on $5,000/10% bond and Judge Green amended his tether rules to allow the defendant to go to and from work. Defense attorney is Luther Glenn, Jr.