Deceit over a theft of drugs in La Crosse, Wis., led up to Harron Burnett gunning down Steven J. Harvey on May 9, 2006, in the 2500 block of North Armstrong Street.

That’s how Howard County Deputy Prosecutor Jeremy Peelle summed up his case against Burnett, 20, formerly of Illinois, Tuesday in his opening arguments in Burnett’s murder trial in Howard Circuit Court.

Just after midnight, police found Harvey, 20, South Bend, lying in a pool of blood outside a green Monte Carlo at the corner of Gerhart and Armstrong streets. He had been shot several times in the head and lower body. He died a short time after being airlifted to Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis.

The Monte Carlo police believe Harvey had been driving was found running in the street near his body and several shell casings were found inside the car.

The vehicle was registered to Harvey’s mother.

Peelle alleges Burnett shot and killed Harvey as revenge for Harvey “snitching on him” for stealing 10 pounds of marijuana.

“Harvey is not the nicest man in the world,” Peelle told jurors in his opening arguments.

“He sold drugs and used drugs, but he did not deserve to die.”

Peelle also told jurors he will call several witnesses that will place Burnett with Harvey prior to the murder. Phone records showing Burnett called several people minutes after the murder on his girlfriend’s phone also will implicate him, he said.

The defense team of Stephanie Doran and Katherine Noel had a different story that implicated Harvey’s cousin Leonard was responsible for the shooting and not Burnett.

Doran said she will show that Harvey stole $15,000 from his cousin in 2005 and that Leonard told others he would “blow his head off” as revenge.

“He put a hit out on Steven Harvey’s life,” Doran told jurors.

Doran also said Leonard smuggled large amounts of cocaine into Florida and had a lot of guns. Knowing he was facing a lot of prison time, Leonard took his own life in jail, Doran said.

After opening arguments, Peelle called 10 witnesses and presented more than 50 pieces of evidence, including photos from the crime scene and autopsy, phone records and Harvey’s bloody clothes.

Four officers testified to arriving at the scene, finding the body, collecting evidence and talking to potential witnesses. Several people testified they saw Burnett and Harvey together in Kokomo before the murder.

Tessa Gibson, who was Burnett’s girlfriend in May 2006, testified that when Burnett came to her home shortly after Harvey’s murder, she didn’t notice anything strange about him.

She said Burnett spent the night and used her phone, which was not unusual during that time.

Another witnesses, Rachel Woodard, told jurors she went to La Crosse, Wis., in January with Harvey and Burnett. She testified they rented a motel room and that at some time in the evening Harvey and Burnett left and came back with “a lot of marijuana.”

At 8 a.m. the next day, the three were arrested on possession of marijuana charges.

When asked if she felt they were set-up, she said, “yeah, basically.”

“Something fishy was going on,” she testified. “The police officer called him by his name.”

She also said Harvey told her that it was his first time in La Crosse, but when they were arrested, one officer called him by name, making her suspicious.

In a statement to police, Woodard said she knew Burnett carried a .40-caliber handgun, the same type of gun used in Harvey’s shooting. But, on the stand, Woodard denied ever seeing Burnett with a gun and said she lied to police in the earlier statement. She claimed she was on drugs and she told police what they wanted to hear.

“I was scared, I don’t really know what was going on,” she said on the stand. “I just wanted them to get out of my face.”

Twan Holman, a friend of both Harvey and Burnett, testified that he saw Harvey at the American Legion the night before the murder. In an earlier police interview, he said he saw both Harvey and Burnett at the legion. But, on the stand he just recalled seeing Harvey. He also said he saw another man with Harvey and it was not Burnett.

The trial resumes today at 1 p.m. and is expected to conclude Friday.

Mike Fletcher may be reached at (765) 454-8565 or via e-mail at mike.fletcher@kokomotribune.com

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