Judge denies bail in killing of pizza deliveryman
ST. GEORGE -- Teresa Gardner spent the hour-long drive to the courthouse praying and crying so that when she arrived, she could calmly ask the judge to deny bail for the two teenagers accused of killing her son.
Gardner approached Circuit Judge Diane Goodstein on Thursday morning and stood just feet away from Stephawn Brown, 19, and Jontae Davis, 18, who are charged with murder and armed robbery in the death of 20-year-old Maraleius Birdsong.
The pair are accused of taking the chicken wings and cinnamon sticks Birdsong had tried to deliver from Domino's Pizza -- but no cash -- and then shooting him "execution style."
Without looking in their direction, Gardner said, "They could have taken the food and gone on, but they chose to shoot and kill my son.
"They not only shot -- but they shot and killed my son," she said. "To me, that is a great danger."
Goodstein agreed. She denied bail for both teens, sending them back to the Dorchester County jail wearing orange-and-white striped jumpsuits.
Brown, accused of being the shooter, stood taller than Davis, who is still an 11th-grade student at Fort Dorchester High School.
Assistant Solicitor Russell Hilton laid out the facts of the case: Birdsong, who worked at Domino's to pay for his classes at Trident Technical College, tried to deliver the food order shortly after 8 p.m. March 9 to Appian Way Apartments in North Charleston. The person who answered the door turned him away, so he returned to the parking lot, where two people confronted him.
Hilton said Brown demanded the food and then shot Birdsong in the back of his head. Brown and Davis fled with the Domino's order, Hilton said, and soon after someone pulling into the parking lot found Birdsong's body and called authorities.
North Charleston police learned that the Domino's order came from a cell phone number that traced to Brown's mother, who told police that her son had her phone at the time of the crime. Police found Brown hiding in his mother's car with the phone in hand, Hilton said.
They also recovered a pizza delivery bag and a ski mask that they sent away for DNA testing.
Birdsong, his brain damaged from the single bullet, died the next day at Medical University Hospital after family members arrived to say goodbye.
That same day, police searched the apartment where Brown lived with his mother, according to Hilton, and found leftover food that fit the order Birdsong had attempted to deliver.
Police also found a 9 mm handgun in the attic, Hilton said. Witnesses told police that they saw Brown and Davis near the crime scene and that Davis told them Brown had fired the fatal shot.
Davis made the same statement himself, Hilton said. The younger teen admitted to running away and disposing of Birdsong's thermal delivery bag after taking the food, according to the prosecutor.
Hilton called the attack "a sort of planned event" but noted that Birdsong was a stranger to Brown and Davis, although all three young men attended Fort Dorchester High at some point.
Davis' defense attorney, Aaron Mayer, asked the judge to note the distinction between his client's alleged role in the slaying and Brown's. Mayer suggested that his client didn't know that Brown planned to shoot Birdsong.
Davis' mother, who relocated to a golf course community in Summerville after the shooting, told the judge that she would drive her son to and from school every day if he is released from jail. Davis' prior record includes a juvenile offense for disturbing school and a mo-ped license violation.
Brown's record runs a bit lengthier. He faced charges as a juvenile for giving false information to a law enforcement officer and shoplifting. Last year, he was convicted of carrying a weapon on school property, receiving stolen goods and simple larceny, and he faces pending charges of possession with intent to distribute marijuana and breaking into a car.
Brown's defense attorney, Mark Leiendecker, noted that authorities lack any forensic evidence to support the charges against his client and asked for "reasonable" bail in the case.
The judge decided that the most reasonable bail, in this case, was none at all.
Reach Allyson Bird at 937-5594 or Twitter.com/ allysonjbird.