BY KEN LITTLE
Evidence pointing to Larry Shane Morgan's guilt as the armed gunman who robbed a Greeneville Federal Bank branch and a Chuckey convenience store last summer mounted Wednesday during Morgan's federal court trial.
Morgan, 36, is charged with bank robbery and five other crimes in connection with the two robberies.
Prosecution testimony entered its second day Wednesday as more than 10 witnesses testified at the trial, which is being held in U.S. District Court in Greeneville.
Evidence was presented by law enforcement officials, forensic experts and other witnesses, including bank tellers and one of the co-defendants in the case, Brandon Dale Shelton.
The prosecution wrapped up its case Wednesday afternoon after nearly 20 witnesses took the stand.
At least six witnesses for the defense testified before Senior U.S. District Court Judge Leon Jordan sent the jury home for the day.
Defense testimony in the trial continued this morning. The jury may get the case this afternoon.
Shelton, 18, pleaded guilty earlier this month to making a false statement in a matter within the jurisdiction of the U.S. government.
He admitted during his plea and in testimony Wednesday morning that he lied to FBI investigators on several occasions about his role in disposing of a gun and clothing used in the bank robbery.
Co-defendant Kaylen Butcher, 19, also pleaded guilty recently in U.S. District Court to robbery and carrying a firearm during a crime of violence.
Butcher, who had a relationship with Morgan that began earlier this year, offered prosecution testimony Tuesday on the first day of the trial.
Shelton told Assistant U.S. Attorney J. Gregory Bowman on Wednesday that part of his plea agreement is to testify truthfully at Morgan's trial.
Shelton said he is close friends with Butcher and had met Morgan several times through her.
On the night of July 2, the day the Greeneville Federal Bank branch at 2305 East Andrew Johnson Highway was robbed by an armed man, Shelton testified he was at the Butcher house on Old Stage Road in Chuckey when Morgan arrived with Butcher.
Morgan went into Kaylen Butcher's room with her but did not emerge, Shelton said. Butcher testified Tuesday that Morgan gave her a bag containing cash and clothing and left out the bedroom window.
Butcher and Shelton went to Shelton's mobile home about five miles away, where they spent the night.
Morgan was carrying a "big bag" when he arrived at Butcher's house, Shelton testified.
In addition, he said, "He [Morgan] had something under his shirt."
Shelton was asked by Bowman if he and Butcher discussed the bank robbery.
"We talked about it for a second. She had a bag of money and a bag of clothes," he said.
Morgan allegedly left Butcher about $1,500 and a pistol, Shelton said. The cash and clothes were taken to Shelton's trailer.
A brick was placed inside a black mesh bag containing clothes used in the bank robbery and the bag was thrown into the Nolichucky River on the way to the Shelton's trailer, he testified.
The next morning, July 3, Shelton and Butcher returned to Butcher's house. FBI agents arrived about noon, and Butcher was taken into custody and charged in connection with the June 28 robbery of the Stop & Go Market, at 6910 East Andrew Johnson Hiwy.
Morgan is also charged in connection with that crime.
A gunshot was fired in each robbery, and a clerk was struck in the head with a pistol barrel in the market robbery.
ROBBERY MONEY SPENT
In the days after Butcher's arrest, Shelton, of Limestone, testified he and several others spent the money Morgan allegedly left with Butcher on clothing, food, jewelry and marijuana.
Shelton testified that on the night of July 3, he was driven by Todd McCrary to a rock quarry near Davy Crockett Birthplace State Park, where he disposed of the 9 mm pistol and ammunition allegedly used by Morgan in the bank robbery.
McCrary is the boyfriend of Megan Butcher, the sister of Kaylen Butcher.
Earlier July 3, Shelton testified, he gave the first of several false statements to the FBI about his knowledge of the crimes.
Shelton told Bowman he was trying to protect himself by disposing of the gun and ammunition.
"I knew I might get in trouble if they found [the gun and ammunition]," he testified.
Shelton was asked about a telephone call from Butcher made the night of July 3 after she had been being booked into the Greene County jail.
Butcher told him to remember what she told him earlier. Bowman asked what that meant.
"That night, after she got arrested, she told me to get rid of [the gun]," Shelton said. "That's what it could have [meant] over the phone."
Shelton first denied that he received any money from the bank robbery and said that Butcher disposed of the gun used in the bank robbery.
Under cross-examination Wednesday by defense lawyer Benjamin Sharp, Shelton said that FBI agents had explained the penalties for lying to them.
"It was stupid to lie," he said. "I was trying to keep [Butcher] out of trouble, but I ended up getting myself in trouble also."
Sharp asked Shelton if he disposed of the pistol because it was used in the bank robbery.
"Yes," Shelton said.
"Did you rob that bank, Mr. Shelton?" Sharp quickly asked.
"No," Shelton said.
ARREST OF MORGAN
Morgan, 36, was picked up the morning of July 3 after his black Chevrolet pickup truck was spotted outside the Fox Motel on U.S. 11E in Johnson City.
Authorities had a description of the black pickup truck used in the convenience store and bank robberies, and received many tips that did not pan out, Bowman was told by Greeneville police Detective Capt. Beth Dyke.
Dyke testified that she was speaking to a motel employee when she saw Morgan emerge from a room. Greeneville police Detective Lt. Pat Hankins approached Morgan and the two "had a confrontation," Dyke testified.
Morgan started walking toward where his truck was parked, and began "struggling" with Hankins, she said,
"He was running and [Hankins] was holding on to him," Dyke testified. "I hit him from behind and took him to the ground."
Morgan was carrying a flannel shirt wrapped around a plastic bag "full of money," Dyke said.
Marked "bait" bills with recorded serial numbers placed in the money taken from the bank were included in the bundle of cash that Morgan was carrying, Dyke said.
A wallet Morgan had in his pocket contained over $2,000 in cash, mostly in new $100 bills, she testified. Morgan was also carrying a cell phone and two cash wrappers stamped "Greeneville Federal Bank," Dyke stated.
One of the wrappers was also stamped July 2 -- the date of the bank robbery, she said in answer to Bowman's questions.
In addition to bank robbery, Morgan is also charged with with obstruction of commerce by robbery, two counts of use of a firearm in relation to a violent crime, and two counts of being a convicted felon in possession of ammunition, a federal violation.
In Wednesday morning prosecution testimony, two tellers inside Greeneville Federal Bank at 11:41 a.m. on July 2, when a lone robber with a handgun stormed in the side door, took the stand.
Another bank worker who had just left to go across the street to get a sandwich and noticed Morgan's parked truck also testified.
Head teller Christy Harris said she was at her station when she saw "a guy come in the side door, and he had a gun pointed at me."
Harris "thought it was a joke" for a moment, then screamed as the hooded robber approached her holding the gun.
She hid under the counter but got back up after the robber told her, "Give me all your money. I'm not playing. I'll shoot."
"Then he shot," Harris testified. "The man fired a gun. [The bullet] went a couple of inches above the drive-through window."
A bank security video shown by Bowman showed the scenario play out, and Harris putting money in a purple-colored bag the robber threw on the counter.
"He said get down on the floor and if we push the [robbery alert] button, he will come back and kill us," Harris testified.
The man was gone in less than one minute, "but it felt longer," Harris testified.
The robber was "all covered" with a dark hoodie and wore a mask and sunglasses. His face was obscured, Harris said.
Harris had the presence of mind to place several of the "bait bills" in the money the robber was given.
Teller Rebecca Jenkins next took the stand. Jenkins testified she heard Harris screaming and turned around to see the masked robber.
After he demanded money, Jenkins said she went to her drive-in teller station.
"By the time I had got to the drive-through [station] he had shot above my head," she said, momentarily losing her composure.
Harris and Jenkins both got a week off after the bank robbery. Jenkins told Bowman that coping with the robbery was difficult.
"It was very, very hard. Every time that door opened, I turned around," she said.
Supervisor Kimberly Foshie testified she had just left to go across the street to get a sandwich from the Subway restaurant when the robbery occurred.
She said she was only gone a few minutes when Harris called to tell her the bank had just been robbed.
Foshie said she noticed a black Chevrolet pickup truck backed into a parking space in the bank lot when she left. It was gone when she returned. The truck had passenger-side damage.
Greeneville police Officer Cameron Spradlin later testified that he investigated a two-vehicle crash on June 29, the day after the Stop & Go Market robbery. One of the vehicles involved was Morgan's truck, which sustained damage to the passenger side, Spradlin testified.
Bowman asked Foshie if she was familiar with Morgan.
She said that Morgan had opened a checking account at the bank and received a loan used to purchase the pickup truck.
"I assisted him on that," Foshie said.
Forensic technicians who linked the shell casings found at the two crime scenes to casings found on the Butcher property also testified Wednesday.
Kaylen Butcher admitted in her plea agreement to carrying a gun during the Stop & Go robbery on June 28. She testified that Morgan gave her the gun.
The other handgun was also fired on the Butcher property, she said.
Morgan worked at Angus Palm on Snapp Ferry Road, several miles from the Greeneville Federal Bank branch that was robbed.
Morgan's defense lawyers have said that he worked a full day on July 2, a claim supported by several co-workers who testified for the defense Wednesday afternoon.
Company employee Larry Collins said in earlier prosecution testimony that there are two security videos that show workers coming and going from the Angus Palm parking lot.
But Collins said he does not know if Morgan left the property during the 30-minute lunch break between 11:30 a.m. and noon.
"Is it fair to say your surveillance video doesn't reflect whether he left Angus Palm or not?" Bowman asked.
"Correct," Collins said.
Several Angus Palm employees said later in defense testimony that they saw Morgan at different times during the day, including one witness who saw Morgan return to the production line about 12:15 p.m. on July 2.
But no one could conclusively place Morgan on the Angus Palm property between 11:30 a.m. and noon.
Todd McCrary, who drove Shelton to dispose of the gun in the quarry, also was called to testify for the defense, as was Butcher's 17-year-old sister, Megan Butcher.
McCrary, 21, said he had only met Morgan several times. He testified Shelton did not arrive at the Butcher house until the afternoon of July 2, and in ensuing days was spending what Sharp characterized as "large sums" of money.
"I was helping him spend it," McCrary said.
Megan Butcher told Nikki Pierce, the assistant federal public defender representing Morgan, that she had taken a large amount of money from her sister's purse after she was arrested, but did not know it was from the bank robbery.
Greeneville police Lt. Michael Ottinger testified that the bundle of cash Morgan dropped after he struggled July 3 with police officers outside the motel in Johnson City totaled $22,604.
Morgan was also carrying $2,577 in his wallet, Ottinger said.