Trial for Darmequaye Cohill: Ex-girlfriend, who posted his phone number online, takes the stand

MILWAUKEE -- Wednesday, December 2nd was Day Three of trial for Darmequaye Cohill. The 22-year-old man is charged with first degree recklessly endangering safety, and first degree reckless homicide in connection with the shooting death of 13-month-old Bill Thao.

Cohill is accused of firing into a home near 73rd and Mill Road on December 27th, 2014. Bill Thao was playing with toys in the living room of that home. Thao was struck as shots were fired into the home. He died at Children's Hospital.

Bill Thao

Police say Kwesen Sanders was the intended target of that shooting.

Police and prosecutors say Cohill fired into the wrong house.

Home near 73rd and Mill -- where Bill Thao was shot

Investigators learned after talking with witnesses that Cohill also goes by the name "Black" -- and is someone who sold heroin on the street.

The complaint indicates Cohill reached out to a person who regularly bought heroin from him. Cohill told this person someone had "stolen his phone" and he didn't want that number being used anymore.

The person to which Cohill was talking indicated he just bought heroin (on December 26th) from "Black's cousin." Cohill didn't know who that was -- and suspected it might be the person who stole his phone.

Kwesen Sanders and Darmequaye Cohill

The complaint goes on to say, Cohill wanted his contact to call the person identified as "Black's cousin" one more time -- and set up another heroin buy later in the day. Cohill apparently told the person "he wanted to 'jump out on' the person who had taken his phone.

So according to the complaint, another buy was set up near 73rd and Mill and Cohill followed behind.

When the transaction was happening later on December 26th, the complaint says a black vehicle was seen approaching and gunshots were heard coming from the vehicle.

The next day, December 27th, the person who in the complaint is identified as "Black's cousin" was looking out his front window and "observed a vehicle park" nearby.

Investigators learned from this person that he saw "four individuals exit the vehicle and reach the intersection of N. 73rd St. and W. Brentwood Ave. He recognized one of these individuals to be 'Mequaye' (or Cohill)."

Cohill then apparently walked directly to the street in front of a duplex at 73rd and Mill, "raised his armed, and fired a handgun...several times." Two other individuals with Cohill were also seen firing shots at the home.

73rd and Mill shooting

During testimony Wednesday, Cohill's former girlfriend testified that her actions may have sparked this shooting.

Courtney Nalls said she posted Cohill's phone number on Facebook and Instagram after he would't answer her phone calls on Christmas night, 2014.

Courtney Nalls

Nalls indicated she did this so the numbers could be "swiped."

"Someone could get the phone numbers transferred over to their phone. I knew it would make him mad," Nalls said.

Prosecutors say Sanders then fielded calls for drug orders which were intended for Cohill, and Cohill sought revenge.

After an investigator testified that a vehicle (a Pontiac G6) belonging to Cohill was located near his home, a defense attorney referred to Sanders' statements to police.

Questioning of detective by defense attorney in court: "Mr. Sanders, the star witness here told you, if I`m correct, that the people who did this crime drove off in a red Volkswagen. Is that right?

Detective: "Yes."

Questioning of detective by defense attorney in court: "Not a black Pontiac G6?"

Detective: "Correct."

Kwesen Sanders

Kwesen Sanders, the key witness in this case, was uncooperative in court on Tuesday. He made a deal with prosecutors, and then went back on it in front of a jury.

Sanders originally told police the whole story -- and that it was Darmequaye Cohill who fired the shots into the house -- striking the 13-month-old baby boy.

But on Tuesday, during Cohill's trial, Sanders -- the key witness in this case, changed his tune. Sanders went back on the statement he gave police at the time of the shooting -- that he saw Cohill fire.

Questioning of Sanders in court: "Did you tell the detectives you were certain it was him?"

"No," Sanders said.

Questioning of Sanders in court: "Because you have known him since you attended school on North 27th and West Vliet?"

"I told him I know him. That's it," Sanders said.

"No" was the response to just about every question the prosecutor asked Sanders in court Tuesday. He even denied his signature is on photos identifying Cohill as the shooter. The defense attorney too was frustrated.

Questioning of Sanders in court: "Do you have medical problems?" 

"No," Sanders said.

Questioning of Sanders in court: "Is there something we should know about that affects your ability to remember things that you obviously said or did?"

"No sir," Sanders said.

Darmequaye Cohill

The prosecutor says Sanders cut a deal -- he would testify against Cohill, and in return, he wouldn't be charged in a prior, unrelated shooting that happened in August.

The prosecutor says Sanders didn't keep his end of the deal.

Questioning of Sanders in court: "Mr. Sanders, do you think this exercise is a game?"

"Why would you think that?" Sanders said.

Questioning of Sanders in court: "Because your answers are silly and ridiculous and you are offending the sensibilities of these 12 people." 

"Since you say that, I plead my Fifth Amendment rights and that's the right to remain silent," Sanders said.

When jurors left the courtroom so court officials could discuss this further, Sanders said he didn't want to continue his testimony.

"He's not the shooter. What don't you all get?" Sanders said.

Of course, there's now the question of whether Sanders will be charged with lying in court.

The prosecution did not finish calling witnesses until about 4:15 p.m.

The defense will continue calling its witnesses when the trial continues on Thursday, December 3rd.

Bill Thao