Thursday, December 14, 2017
Public safety

Trial begins in killing outside St. Petersburg pool hall

LARGO — A hail of gunfire ripped into a St. Petersburg house two years ago and the bullets somehow missed the six children, ages 2 through 15, who huddled inside.

The case has never been solved. But on Monday, the echoes of the drive-by that nearly turned tragic came to a courtroom.

That's because Dwayne M. Bailey is accused of shooting to death a man named Marquell Burge, 30. Authorities have long suspected associates of Burge's caught wind of his death and came back to the house where Bailey was staying to pay him back with gunfire.

The murder trial against Bailey, 27, began Monday, and it will give jurors a glimpse into this March 2011 night of violence in St. Petersburg. But only a glimpse. Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Philip Federico said prosecutors can mention the shooting at the house but not the retaliation theory.

In an unusual development, Assistant State Attorney Frank Migliore raised the possibility of taking jurors to the scene of the fatal shooting, behind a pool hall called the Game Room, 1149 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. S, St. Petersburg. Federico reserved time for today for him to argue why it would be necessary.

Prosecutors told jurors that Bailey got out of jail in March 2011, got a Subway sandwich and stopped by the Game Room.

Later, someone came to the alley behind the Game Room and said he wanted some drugs. When Burge came out, a man raised a gun to the back of Burge's head and fired.

"The gun went off, Bo Diddley, he fell on his face," said Lorenzo Brown, 50, an eyewitness who cleaned up around the Game Room. Burge was known as "Bo Diddley" or "Bo."

He was "shot one time in the back of the head, he fell face down in the gravel," Assistant State Attorney Susan St. John said. "He was shot in the head by Dwayne Bailey during a robbery."

Defense attorney Richard Watts disputed that during his opening statement. He said Bailey had gone to the Game Room earlier in the evening but did not shoot Burge.

The state's case, he said, is based entirely on "eyewitness misidentification and jailhouse snitches."

"You won't be presented with any hard evidence," he said.

During Brown's testimony Monday, defense attorney Lane Lastinger asked if he really could identify Bailey even though the killer covered his face with a black T-shirt.

Brown said he could identify Bailey by his light skin, a tattoo on his neck and because he recognized his eyes.

The shooting into the home that followed Burge's death was reminiscent of a 2009 shooting that killed 8-year-old Paris Whitehead-Hamilton. She died after a neighborhood gang shot into a home while seeking revenge against another gang. People trying to end violence in the city rallied around that case.

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