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State, defense rest at Gathers murder trial

Prosecutor Stephen M. Carney rested the state’s case against accused murderer Bruce R. Gathers Monday after eliciting testimony from a woman who said she saw Gathers at the scene with a gun in his hand.

Gathers, 32, also known as Man Man, is on trial for the shooting death of 19-year-old Sean Hill on June 3, 2006, near the intersection of Boswell Avenue and Lake Street in Norwich. Gathers has pleaded not guilty and opted for a trial, which began last week.

On Monday, the prosecutor called on Ruby James, a 41-year-old former resident of 64 Boswell Ave. James had gone missing last week after the state served her with a subpoena compelling her to testify. She was located over the weekend in New Haven and held until Monday.

After Hill’s death, James told police she had been standing on the steps of 64 Boswell Ave. when she saw Gathers and his codefendant, Gregory “Biscuit” Smith, robbing a man in the hallway. She said she saw Gathers strike the victim, Justin Smith, with a pistol, and when Smith escaped, she said she saw Gathers run out of the building with the gun in his hand.

Hill, who had gone to the downtown area with Smith and others that night, was killed moments later after Gathers allegedly tussled with him and shot him in the abdomen.

Defense attorney Michael Fitzpatrick called only one witness — Norwich patrolman Greg McDonald — before he, too rested his case. Fitzpatrick used McDonald’s testimony in an attempt to discredit the testimony of Justin Smith, the state’s only eyewitness to the shooting. McDonald took a statement from Smith three days after the crime which Fitzpatrick said was inconsistent with the testimony Smith gave on the witness stand last week.

On June 6, 2006, Smith had called McDonald to say he wanted to help with the Hill murder investigation. Smith told McDonald he had fled toward Division Street after the robbery, heard a gunshot and saw a black male running into the cemetery on Oak Street.

On the witness stand, Smith said he ran past the driveway at Boswell and Lake where Hill was standing and turned around to see him tussling with Gathers before Gathers shot Hill.

Gathers opted not to testify in his own defense, and the evidentiary portion of the trial came to a close Monday afternoon. The trial will resume on Thursday, when the attorneys for both sides will deliver closing arguments. The jury will then begin deliberating after receiving instructions from Judge Arthur C. Hadden.


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