ELYRIA — Mark Sanchez stood 4 feet away and watched as Elliott Kirkland fired three shots into Jimmie Holland Jr., grabbed a Crown Royal bag filled with cash and walked out of the apartment, Sanchez testified.
“He leaves me in the house,” Sanchez said. “I don’t know why (I didn’t run with him). Maybe I was in shock that it really happened. I probably stood there for like 20 minutes and then started stealing stuff.”
Wednesday was the second day of testimony in the murder trial of Kirkland, 28, of Lorain, who prosecutors say shot Holland three times early Aug. 29, 2016, and left him to bleed to death. Kirkland faces aggravated murder charges and, if convicted, could be sentenced to death.
Sanchez’s testimony was a requirement of his plea agreement with prosecutors. The agreement states that if Sanchez tells the truth, the state will drop all counts of aggravated murder and murder from his indictment and he’ll be sentenced to 14 years in prison, according to court documents. Otherwise, he could face life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Assistant County Prosecutor Tony Cillo asked Sanchez why he agreed to cooperate with prosecutors, to which Sanchez responded, “Because I didn’t kill anybody.” When asked who did, Sanchez said, “Elliott Kirkland.”
Sanchez said he went to the Ninth Street apartment of Holland with Kirkland, Jasmine Schafer and Latrice Thomas in a vehicle with the plan to rob Holland, who was said to have hundreds of Percocet pills and a large amount of cash. Kirkland and Sanchez entered Holland’s apartment, leaving the two women in the vehicle.
Schafer testified Tuesday that she told Kirkland that Holland had drugs and money when he asked her if she knew of someone he could rob. Schafer said she’d been in a relationship with Holland and led the group to his home.
Cillo asked Sanchez what was going through his mind as they approached the residence.
“Well, to try to get out of it,” Sanchez said. “I didn’t have a way out, though. I did (say, ‘No, I’m not doing it,’) but I still went on with it. It’s not easy when you don’t have a gun.”
Sanchez testified that Kirkland had a 9 mm pistol, while Sanchez was carrying a stun gun. He said he was afraid Kirkland would shoot him if he tried to leave.
Once they entered Holland’s apartment, the two began to argue, Sanchez said.
“I tried to convince him that it was a bad idea,” he said. “I told him I didn’t feel safe doing this. I don’t know why he’s trying to do this with some girls. After that, he tried to convince me to go wake the guy up.”
When the two men entered Holland’s bedroom, the door creaked, Sanchez said.
“He woke up instantly. He didn’t need to be woken up,” he said. “The guy says, ‘What the (expletive).’ None of us say anything, but then E gives a warning shot, Elliot does. Elliot said, ‘Mother (expletive), you think this is a game, (expletive)?’”
Kirkland then told Holland to get on the floor, Sanchez said. Holland began to comply, but then he grabbed Kirkland’s arm to try to get the gun away from him.
“He grabbed the wrong arm, though,” Sanchez said. “Elliott then shot him a bunch of times.”
Sanchez said that Kirkland, Schafer and Thomas left the scene. Sanchez then began ransacking the apartment, stealing electronics, video games and clothing from Holland’s home.
“I ended up finding some new shoes in the closet and put them on,” Sanchez said. “I then put on one of his shirts.”
He said he left his own shoes at the scene, which police recovered during their investigation.
Sanchez testified that at the time of the incident he had a drug habit that cost him about $500 a day. He would get the money by stealing merchandise from stores and selling it on the street.
When he saw all the things in Holland’s apartment, he said he couldn’t stop himself from stealing.
Sanchez testified that he found Holland’s car keys and then made multiple trips to load up the vehicle with stolen items, which he then traded for crack.
Kirkland’s defense attorney, Kenneth Lieux, tried to undermine Sanchez’s credibility by pointing out several lies the witness had told police when he was first arrested in connection to the case. Lieux questioned whether Sanchez was testifying to what prosecutors had told him he had to say to get his plea deal.
Sanchez admitted he had lied to police in an effort to “try to get their eyes off me.” He said he had not been coached as to what to say during his testimony.
Kirkland’s defense team has said they believe it was Sanchez who pulled the trigger and killed Holland.
Cillo asked Sanchez why the jury should believe that he’s telling the truth now.
“I don’t really have an answer for that,” Sanchez said. “I’m not a violent dude at all, really.”
Cillo also asked him how he feels about his actions that night.
“(I feel like) (expletive),” Sanchez said. “Like, as low as you can get, you know what I mean? Just a lowlife, I guess you could say. Can’t really put a level on it, it’s so low.”
When Sanchez entered the courtroom Wednesday, he smiled and waved at people in the back of the courtroom. When Cillo asked why he was smiling, Sanchez said because his mother, sisters and brother were in the courtroom and he hadn’t seen them in 29 months, since his arrest.
He also talked about what his life in jail has been like since he agreed to testify against Kirkland, saying that he’s been threatened by the defendant’s friends.
“Some cases you won’t be able to eat every day,” he said. “Some cases you won’t be able to walk around. Sometimes you lose your life. It’s just the chance you take.
“My safety is on the line. You won’t be safe, anywhere you go. Nobody likes cooperators.”
Testimony in the trial is set to resume this morning.
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