Serria Reed admits she lied when the police first asked her about the murder of Kurt Bryant. She was scared about the price she would have to pay on the streets.
Relatives of the suspected man threatened her, Reed said. She got angry phone calls warning her to shut up. On the morning after the killing, a bunch of girls gathered outside her home, saying they were going to mess with her if she talked.
But the image of the killing was seared in Reed's head. So Tuesday, she took the witness stand and pointed out the man accused of killing Bryant in St. Petersburg last May: Marcus Oliver, 19, on trial on a first-degree murder charge.
Reed, 25, was getting out of a limousine when the gunman pulled the trigger and a bullet flew into Bryant. She could feel the heat from the bullet's path.
Bryant, 35, was the successful owner of a luxury car business and active in working with children and charities. He was involved in his church, and his wife said he talked about opening a center for neighborhood children to hang out and play.
He was killed after spending a night with buddies who had picked up some girls and were driving around town. When some of the girls began causing trouble, Bryant and his friend stopped to drop them off in the 1000 block of 13th Avenue S. As Bryant was helping a woman out of the limo, police said, Oliver walked up and shot him.
Although a crowd was gathered near the limo, it has been difficult for authorities to find people willing to testify. As Reed put it in a deposition: "I was scared....I told a lie because I said I didn't know. That's how it goes down in the streets."
Shatoya Jenkins, who also testified that she saw Oliver shoot Bryant, told prosecutor Frank Migliore that she was scared, too.
"His family keeps threatening us," she said of Oliver's family.
Prosecutors are relying on eyewitnesses to link Oliver to the murder. Frank Louderback, Oliver's attorney, is trying to cast doubt on those witnesses' reliability. On cross-examination, Louderback pointed out that Reed's story had changed.
In his opening statement, Phil Matthey, a prosecutor with the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office, said Oliver had suggested to a family member during a jail visit that he wanted witnesses to be intimidated.