On short notice, prosecutors have obtained an eyewitness who is expected to testify against co-defendants in an alleged drug robbery turned double homicide last summer.
Juanita Durrum, 25, pleaded guilty Thursday to several charges, including two counts of manslaughter, a Class C felony. She was arrested along with four other people in June 2018 after gunfire erupted inside the home at 302 Alexander St. and left targets of an alleged robbery, 22-year-old Jared Miles Moore and 24-year-old Dustin Wayne Johnson, dead. Durrum now faces up to 35 years in prison and is expected to testify against the other defendants in the case, officials reported.
The case had not been scheduled for a hearing Thursday, said Commonwealth’s Attorney Larry Cleveland. But once prosecutors got word of a plea agreement from Durrum’s defense attorney, they reached out to Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate to arrange for a hearing.
“It happened quickly,” Cleveland said. “We just got a phone call at lunch and went to work.”
Cleveland said the victims’ advocate in his office alerted families of the victims and Durrum, and all converged on the courthouse for the hearing.
Durrum not only admitted to playing a role in the robbery, officials said, but she also admitted to assisting in armed robberies at Triple R Mart, 2215 U.S. 127, and Papa’s Johns, 569 E. Main St., in the days leading up to the fatal shootings.
“She had been the getaway driver in the other robberies,” Cleveland said. “But she was in the room (on Alexander Street). It was supposed to be a robbery for marijuana because marijuana dealers never call the cops. But it turned into a shooting.”
The trial of the other suspects in the robberies and deaths of Moore and Johnson had been postponed pending the outcome of discussions with Durrum. Their trial dates haven't been rescheduled, court records indicate.
Four men — Morgan Crutchfield, 23, of Frankfort; Bricelyn Leake, 18, of Chicago; Rakiethieus Wesley, 28, of Lawrenceburg; and Leroy Love, 24, of Wisconsin — were charged along with Durrum with varying degrees of culpability in the deaths of the two men.
However, Crutchfield — a friend of Moore and Johnson — has since been released from custody on his own recognizance. Charges of complicity to murder, a capital offense, are still pending against him.
Cleveland said that on June 13, prosecutors thought they had reached an agreement with Durrum in exchange for her testimony. During an interview about what she witnessed, Durrum made statements that changed the prosecution's beliefs as to the role Crutchfield played in the killings. So Cleveland agreed to a lowered bond, which led to Crutchfield’s release after he had been held for about a year on the case.
The next morning — when Durrum was supposed to enter into the plea agreement — parents of the victims, Durrum and Crutchfield all gathered in pews near one another inside the courtroom. Durrum then backed out of the agreement, and taunts exchanged among the parents erupted in the hallway outside the courtroom. Wingate personally left the bench to kick the families out of the courthouse.
According to court documents, the June 26, 2018, fatal robbery was preceded by an arrangement of a drug transaction. At about 6 p.m., gunfire erupted inside the residence at 302 Alexander St. during the robbery. Moore was pronounced dead on the scene and Johnson was rushed to the hospital, where he died from his injuries.
Crutchfield claimed that he played dead among the bodies of his two friends as the three alleged assailants fled. He then remained behind at the scene to give descriptions of the suspects and the getaway vehicle to officers.
All of the other defendants face charges of two counts of complicity to murder, a capital offense, and two counts of complicity to first-degree robbery, a Class B felony, except Love, who was later identified as the triggerman in court documents and charged with two counts of murder.
Durrum pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree manslaughter, two counts of complicity to second-degree robbery and three counts of first-degree criminal conspiracy to robbery, all Class C felonies. She faces up to 35 years in prison on the combined charges.