Serria Reed admits that 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 into Reed's head. So on Tuesday, she took the witness stand and pointed out the man accused of killing Bryant in St. Petersburg in May: Marcus Oliver, 19, a pudgy faced young man who is 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.
"That could have been me, and I could have lost my child, and my child could have lost me," Reed said, crying.
Bryant, 35, was married and was the successful owner of a luxury car business. He was active in working with children and charities.
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 limousine, police said, Oliver walked up and shot him.
Although a large crowd was gathered near the limo, it has been difficult for authorities to find people willing to testify.
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.
On Tuesday morning, before a jury had even been selected, Judge Pamela Campbell gathered witnesses and family members of both Bryant and Oliver into the courtroom because of reports of tensions and threatening gestures. Then she told them to cut it out.
"There are some threatening gestures, threatening words ... that have been occurring," Campbell said. "I want to make sure that there are no ugly comments."
Prosecutors are relying on eyewitnesses to link Oliver to the murder. Frank Louderback, Oliver's attorney, is trying to cast doubt on the reliability of those witnesses. On cross-examination Louderback pointed out that Reed's story had changed.
Also, in his opening statement, Louderback said jurors should note the differences in testimony from different witnesses.
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.
Then, Matthey said, Oliver mimicked pulling the trigger of a gun.
Abhi Raghunathan can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8472.