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Defense rests case in murder, kidnapping trial of Vincent George Brown

TAMPA — Hours before her killing, the couple held hands.

That's what Renika Anderson, 37, testified Monday as the defense mounted its case against Vincent George Brown, accused of kidnapping and asphyxiating his then-girlfriend Jennifer Johnson in November 2008.

Anderson, who has a 6-year-old son with Brown, said she saw Brown and Johnson at the Apollo Club on 40th Street the night of Nov. 14, 2008. She didn't see them argue.

"They walked in holding hands," she testified.

She also saw Brown the following two days — before he turned himself in on a violation of probation charge, when he was considered a person of interest in Johnson's disappearance.

He acted normally, she said. They watched football.

Brown's father also testified that the couple appeared to be getting along. He saw them in the pre-dawn hours of Nov. 15, 2008, when they stopped by his Tampa home.

They were affectionate toward each other, he testified.

"When they first got here, they were getting along all right," said Brown's father, also named Vincent Brown. "I don't know otherwise, outside, but when they got here, they were doing alright."

He also said it was not unusual for his son to drive Johnson's car.

Questioning lasted less than an hour, and at 2 p.m., the defense rested its case. The state's case took up most of last week.

During that time, prosecutors introduced evidence that Brown, 41, had threatened Johnson, that they had been together shortly before her death and that he had been seen driving her car afterward.

The jury looked at autopsy photos and listened to a medical examiner's testimony that Johnson died of asphyxiation, either from the plastic bags over her face or from strangulation

They also listened to a 911 call placed by Johnson. She sounded panicked. "They have me in the trunk of my car," she shouted. "I don't know where I am."

Johnson's body was found several days later in an abandoned Lakeland house.

Hillsborough Circuit Judge William Fuente denied the defense's motion for acquittal Monday and told jurors to expect closing statements this morning.

He advised them to pack an overnight bag in case they haven't reached a verdict by 5 p.m. If that happens, they'll be sequestered, he said.

Times staff writer Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at jvandervelde@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3433.

Defense rests case in murder, kidnapping trial of Vincent George Brown 11/14/11 [Last modified: Monday, November 14, 2011 11:05pm]

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