The Journal Gazette
Saturday, October 24, 2020 1:00 am

Man, 23, guilty in triple slaying

Jury convicts on all counts in 2018 deaths

MATTHEW LEBLANC | The Journal Gazette

A Fort Wayne man was convicted on all counts Friday in the killings of three people on Thanksgiving Day two years ago.

Gerald Pinkston, 23, was charged with criminal recklessness and three counts of murder in the Nov. 22, 2018, shooting deaths of Colton Messmer, 20, Joevonn Johnson, 23, and Tracey Andrews, 21, inside a home on Downingtown Drive.

A co-defendant, Kameron Joyner, pleaded guilty last year to three counts of murder and two counts of attempted murder. He told police after the slayings he and an unnamed accomplice went to the home to kill Messmer over a drug debt.

The accomplice also fired shots inside the home that night, according to charging documents.

Joyner, a defense witness who is serving a 200-year prison sentence, told a different story Friday in Allen Superior Court.

He and Pinkston went to the home to hang out, Joyner said. But he was prepared for violence.

“I had it in my mind that if Joevonn (Johnson) was there, I'd kill him,” he said.

Joyner also claimed to be the only shooter, saying he fired six shots from a revolver and then grabbed a .40-caliber handgun on the table in the living room and fired more shots – something he had not said previously to investigators.

Prosecutors during the four-day trial said Pinkston also had a gun, tying him to the weapon through .40-caliber ammunition found in places he had been. Several .40-caliber shell casings were found inside the one-story home on Downingtown Drive. 

Witnesses said Joyner used a racial slur to order a man – Teryle King – shot, and prosecutors argued the order was unlikely to come if there were only one shooter. 

A woman inside the home said she saw Pinkston reach into his pants, presumably for a weapon. A man who was shot twice but survived testified that he saw Pinkston with a gun.

Prosecutors Tesa Helge and Tom Chaille said Pinkston was acting in concert with Joyner and knew what was going to happen.

Pinkston knew they were likely there to commit a robbery, Chaille said during closing arguments Friday. At least one backpack filled with marijuana was taken from the home. 

“They were there to rob and kill, and that's what they did,” Chaille said. “When you fire shots, you know of the high probability you're going to kill (people). You're responsible for your buddy's shots, too.”

Defense attorneys Brian D. Williams and Corey L. Scott argued throughout the trial there was little evidence to prove Pinkston fired shots or knew what was going to happen.

They often questioned the qualifications of expert witnesses for the prosecution, including the head of the Fort Wayne Police Department's homicide unit and an Indiana State Police firearms examiner. 

Williams, in closing arguments, told jurors Joyner is “a stone-cold killer” who held a gun to Pinkston's head before each left the scene in a waiting white SUV. 

“(Joyner) ran out of bullets,” Williams said. “That's the only reason Gerald Pinkston is alive.” 

Scott repeated earlier arguments that witness testimony was inconsistent. 

“Most mere mortals, their memory fades over time,” he said.

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