Jury won't hear murder witness

Published March 28, 2007

DADE CITY - A key state witness who saw her cousin gunned down six years ago outside a Trilacoochee nightclub refused to testify in court Tuesday.

It marked the second time Latrice Marbra nearly derailed the trial of Eric Antwon "E-love" Wilson, who is charged with second-degree murder in the Feb. 24, 2001, shooting death of "Little" Ronnie Barber.

After showing up three hours late to court Tuesday, Marbra said she was no longer willing to testify. Circuit Judge Pat Siracusa threatened to hold her in contempt, and put her in a holding cell to ponder her decision. Three hours later, she agreed to testify.

By then, the state was no longer interested. Marbra was sent home.

"I told them I'm not going to say what they want me to say," she said afterward.

Assistant State Attorney Manny Garcia would not say why he decided not to call Marbra.

Tuesday's turn of events was just the latest bizarre development in a long-running case fraught with them.

Wilson is accused of shooting Barber after Barber cheated him on some cocaine. Authorities say Wilson and co-defendant Scottie Lee "D'Angelo" White drove into the Rumors nightclub parking lot, turned on their high beams and got out of the car firing. Barber, 23, crouched down behind his car door, but a bullet struck him in the left shoulder and ripped into his heart. He bled to death at the scene.

White has twice been tried and convicted in the case. He is serving life in prison.

A key witness against him: Latrice Marbra.

She was in the club parking lot that night and watched the whole scene unfold.

But Tuesday, she said she is tired of the pressure on her and her five children. They attend the same schools as Wilson's kids, she said.

"You know how that feels for my kids to be friends with his kids?" she said outside court. "I'm the one sending their daddy to jail."

Since the shooting, she said, she was attacked by members of Wilson's family and had her car vandalized.

At Wilson's last court date in October, Marbra was scheduled to take the stand but couldn't be found. Several people testified that she had fled to Philadelphia and been bribed to stay away by Wilson or his associates with $10,000.

It's true she was in Philadelphia, she said - for her sister's 16th birthday party. But she never got paid off.

As for Barber, Marbra said she thinks justice was won with White's conviction. He was the real killer, she said.

"Eric was shooting at the ground, so I can't say I saw him shoot my cousin," she said.

Also Tuesday, a man serving a federal prison term testified that Wilson admitted shooting Barber.

Timothy Smiley said he used to be in the drug trade and dog-fighting trade with Wilson. However, jurors were prevented from hearing about any illegal drug activity. A judge ruled previously that such statements were too damning and could not be mentioned during the trial.

Smiley said he was at Wilson's house a couple days after the shooting when Wilson told him this: "The thing that we talked about the other day, I handled that. You see he ain't around no more. I handled that."

Molly Moorhead can be reached at 352 521-6521 or moorhead@sptimes.com.