Murder trial opens in death of traveling carnival worker

A prosecutor described the slaying of a 48-year-old carnival worker as an "execution" Wednesday as the trial of one of his alleged killers opened.

Robert Vargo was shot in the head through a pillow after he was forced onto the bed of his North Charleston hotel room.

The motive was robbery and the take was around $50, 9th Circuit Assistant Solicitor Rutledge DuRant told jurors at the Charleston County Judicial Center.

"He was the perfect victim," DuRant told the jury.

On trial is Lennie Franklin Mickey, 32, one of four people charged in the case. They are accused of going after Vargo in November 2006 because he was believed to be carrying cash. He had recently checked into the Budget Inn on Fain Street after working for two weeks at the Coastal Carolina Fair.

Also charged in the case are Shawn Demetrius Phillips and Alana Ponce Niesen, both of North Charleston, and Sandra Campbell Barnes of Summerville.

Vargo allegedly was targeted by Mickey and the others after Niesen had been with Vargo earlier, and tipped them off.

The two men and Barnes then allegedly went to the room and knocked on the door to get inside.

Mickey is charged with murder, armed robbery and criminal conspiracy. It is not known if he was the gunman who fired the fatal shot, but he is charged under the doctrine of "the hand of one is the hand of all," covering when a homicide is committed and there is more than one defendant. He potentially faces life behind bars if convicted.

Mickey's defense attorney Bill Nixon asked the jury to reserve judgment, saying the accomplices to the crime would testify for the state in the hope they "can get a break down the road."

The case is expected to go into Friday.

Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551 or skropf@postandcourier.com.