RACINE — The state’s primary witness in a 2022 homicide had his credibility battered Wednesday in Racine County Circuit Court as the defense was able to show he spent months lying to investigators.
Kemoney Woods, 17, claimed he did not see the shooting, but was nearby, and saw his friend fall into the grass with a gunshot wound to the head.
He told the jury it was Zontell Junior, 16, who pulled the trigger in the shooting death of Quentin Smith, 16, who was a student at Park High School.
Junior is charged with first-degree intentional homicide with use of a dangerous weapon.
According to the criminal complaint, Junior told investigators he was not the shooter.
This is the second trial for Junior. The first trial ended with a hung jury on April 21.
As the primary witness, Woods told the jury he, Smith and Junior made plans to get together and smoke marijuana at the Woods residence late in the day of Aug. 12, 2022.
Both Smith and Woods came with firearms. Woods brought a Glock he built from parts purchased over the internet. The teens posed for photos with the guns outside.
While the three were hanging out, Woods took a call from the Racine County Juvenile Detention Center.
Woods claimed he walked to the end of the driveway while he was talking and suddenly heard a shot. He turned and witnessed as Smith fell down on the grass with a gunshot wound to the head and Junior standing with the gun.
He said to Junior, “What the f—, nig—. What the f— are you on? What the f—-?”
Woods claimed from the stand that Junior walked up to him and handed him the gun. Junior had Smith’s fanny pack across his shoulder, which Woods took.
The witness claimed Junior did not say anything before turning and running away.
The recording of Woods’s reaction to the shot being fired is the key piece of evidence in the case.
Because calls from the juvenile detention center are recorded, investigators were able to capture his reaction, and the tape of the call was played for the jury multiple times.
Investigator Robert Rasmussen, the lead investigator on the case, testified from the stand that Woods was initially a person of interest until he received the recording of the taped detention call the evening of Aug. 12.
“The second I heard the detention call, I believed he was not the shooter,” Rasmussen said.
Rasmussen said Woods’ demeanor “absolutely changed” at the sound of the shot, and he sounded like he was panicking. Additionally, it does not sound like the shot came from the person holding the phone, the investigator added.
Credibility on the line
The issue for the prosecution is the actions Woods took after the shooting were damaging to his credibility, including the fact he disposed of the murder weapon and lied to the police repeatedly.
After the shooting, Woods hid the murder weapon in the trash can by his house, which was not found by investigators during the search of the premises. The witness then instructed his sister to get rid of it.
She took the gun to a pond in Kenosha County and threw it in. It was not recovered despite a search by a dive team.
Woods also told his mom to get rid of the photos on the phone that showed the three young men posing with guns that afternoon.
The witness also lied to investigators over and over again. He told officers he would help them retrieve the murder weapon even while he was arranging to have the gun disappear.
Because he told investigators that Junior left with the gun, which was not true, there was a massive effort by law enforcement to locate it in the area between Woods’ house and Junior’s house, which included the use of a drone to see if the gun was on a rooftop somewhere.
The witness also told investigators the murder weapon was not his gun, but it was, and he finally had to admit that.
Woods made the gun – referred to during testimony as the ghost Glock – in his bedroom from parts he ordered on the Internet. Due to his criminal history, Woods was not legally allowed to possess a firearm.
Ghost guns do not have serial numbers and cannot be traced. According to testimony, people can buy kits to assemble the guns that are 80% complete. Because they are not technically firearms, anyone can buy these kits without a background check.
Under questioning, Woods told the jury he took the victim’s fanny pack because he wanted the gun. He knew he would have to make his own gun disappear because it had been used in a homicide – or as they say on the street, it “had a body on it.”
“I didn’t want a homicide charge,” he said.
Laura Walker, the attorney for the defendant, asked, “You were going to get rid of the murder gun and keeping the other one for yourself?”
“Yeah,” Woods responded.
His statements to police were also inconsistent. He initially told investigators that Junior intended to rob Smith and on another occasion said Junior intended to shoot Smith because he was interacting with a rival gang, the south side’s Dirty P’s.
Smith was not associated with a gang but Junior and Woods associated with the NFL (Northside for Life), an offshoot of the Vice Lords.
Woods claimed he did not believe Junior when he said he was going to shoot Smith and did not warn Smith, who had been a friend for many years.
On Wednesday, the jury also learned the Racine County DA’s Office dismissed pending charges as part of the deal to get Woods to testify. The deal included the stipulation that Woods testify truthfully.
Woods was facing charges for having Smith’s gun.
During testimony, the jury learned Assistant DA Antoinette Rich had to assure Woods no one else would face consequences for anything he said.
The trial will continue Thursday.
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