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Brother recounts brother's 2008 slaying in Tampa restaurant parking lot

TAMPA — They hoped to celebrate two milestones in one night.

Willie Cherry III turned 21 two days before. His brother, Adrian, was going to turn 18 in two more.

On the night of April 7, 2008, the brothers went out to have a good time. It ended in a restaurant parking lot, where a bullet pierced Willie Cherry's heart.

He had tried to intervene when a robber threatened his younger brother with a gun.

Adrian Cherry, now 20, recounted the story of his brother's death to jurors Thursday, the fourth day of Tyree A. Jenkins' murder trial.

Jenkins, 22, faces life in prison on a first-degree murder charge. He has also been charged in the killings of two high school students in Wesley Chapel.

In the early hours of April 8, the brothers drove to a Salem's restaurant at 4004 E Hillsborough Ave., Adrian Cherry testified.

He told jurors he sat on the trunk of his white Buick while waiting for Willie Cherry, who was ordering food. He overheard men in a red pickup truck next to him argue with people in another car.

When his brother came back to get his cell phone, Cherry testified he told him about the argument. The two started walking toward the restaurant, Willie Cherry ahead of his brother.

That was when one of the men from the truck — identified as Jenkins — approached Adrian Cherry, he told the jury.

The man lifted his shirt to reveal a gun and said to "Give it up," Cherry said.

He said he heard his brother: " 'Leave my little brother alone.' "

Jenkins turned, fired one shot at Willie Cherry, and continued to rob Adrian Cherry — taking a "couple of dollars" and a ring, he testified.

Other witnesses for the prosecution took the stand Thursday, including Anton Brown, 28, who testified he was one of the men with Jenkins that night.

Brown, who was convicted of seven felonies and is serving a 12-year sentence, said he told Jenkins he would not testify against him, but later decided to cooperate with the state.

The defense also brought two alibi witnesses to court. Defense attorney Brian Gonzalez said one of them, Regis Valbrum, testified Jenkins was with him at a block party on April 7. After the party, Gonzalez said, Valbrum testified he slept at Jenkins' house in Dade City.

Pointing to Jenkins, state prosecutor Jalal Harb asked Cherry two questions Thursday.

Was Jenkins the man who robbed him?

Yes, he said.

Was he the one who shot his brother?

Yes, he said.

"You're sure about that, Mr. Cherry?" Harb asked again.

"I'm 200 percent sure," he said.

Closing arguments are scheduled to begin at 8:45 a.m. today.

Jenkins also awaits trial in the 2008 fatal shootings of Wesley Chapel High School students Derek Pieper and Raymond Veluz.

Brother recounts brother's 2008 slaying in Tampa restaurant parking lot 07/22/10 [Last modified: Thursday, July 22, 2010 11:31pm]
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