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Jerry Lamont Scantling killed Leonard Green for one reason, prosecutors said Tuesday.
To steal from him.
"He did it with a pistol, a Hi-Point .45-caliber pistol, two shots," deputy solicitor Sean Thornton told the jury in his opening argument. "But not before Jerry Scantling pistol whipped him, beat him and robbed him."
Scantling, 30, is accused of fatally shooting Green, a 52-year-old Hilton Head Island man, on the Pinckney Island boat landing in May 2010.
Scantling then dragged Green's body to the water line and covered him in palm fronds, Thornton said.
Scantling "is not going to come off as a choir boy," his lawyer, Matthew Walker countered, but jurors must presume him innocent until the prosecution could prove beyond doubt that he had committed the crime.
"We believe that other conclusions could be drawn," Walker said.
Much of Tuesday's opening statements revolved around the crime scene where Green's body was found May 23, 2010.
Among those called to testify was a Hilton Head public service district employee who spotted a gun on the ground while checking on construction at the boat landing early that morning.
Also testifying were two deputies who answered the worker's 911 call. Cpl. John Klein had unloaded the weapon and put it in his patrol car when Cpl. John Stuckey noticed drag marks on the ground. Stuckey followed them and found Green's body partially covered in debris, he said.
"Had you known there was a body there, would you have moved the gun?" Walker asked.
"Absolutely not," Klein said.
A paramedic, a Sheriff's Office detective and a DNA analyst who swabbed blood stains and other evidence at the scene also were questioned. Thornton showed the jury photographs of Green's body and of evidence recovered near the boat landing.
Walker warned the jury that the "gory" photographs might incite their emotions. Their job, Walker reminded them, was to determine whether investigators had done their jobs.
The trial resumes today, and one of the first witnesses to be called is expected to testify that he saw Scantling driving Green's pick-up truck on Hilton Head Island in the days after the murder.
Green's truck was recovered in Savannah a month later. By that time, Scantling had been arrested on unrelated charges, a few days after the murder, while driving a vehicle reported stolen in Savannah. At the time of his arrest, Scantling also was wanted for a burglary in which a firearm had been reported stolen.
That firearm was the one recovered at the boat landing the day Green's body was found, the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office has said.
Scantling was charged a year after the murder, when DNA results came back from the S.C. Law Enforcement Division lab. He also is accused of using Green's cellphone in the days after the murder.
His trial before Circuit Court Judge John Hayes is expected to continue through the week.
- Prime suspect in year-old murder charged with shooting death, June 10, 2011
- Family of slain man grows impatient as anniversary of death nears, May 21, 2011
- Hilton Head Island man arrested, questioned about Green homicide, May 27, 2010
- Hilton Head Island man found shot to death at Pinckney Island boat ramp, May 23, 2010