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Gun Is Focus of Testimony in Murder Trial for Former Hancock College Athletes

Testimony about weapon will be followed by planned break in trial of Lavell White and Ali Mohammed

With an image of Terence Richardson on the screen in the Lompoc courtroom, attorney Lori Pedego sits next to her client, Ali Mohammed, who is one of two men charged with the murder in connection of Richardson’s death. Mohammed and co-defendant Lavell White also have been charged with burglary and robbery. Click to view larger
With an image of Terence Richardson on the screen in the Lompoc courtroom, attorney Lori Pedego sits next to her client, Ali Mohammed, who is one of two men charged with the murder in connection of Richardson’s death. Mohammed and co-defendant Lavell White also have been charged with burglary and robbery. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

An expert testified Thursday in the trial of two former Allan Hancock College basketball players that his tests of a weapon stolen in a residential burglary indicated it had been used in the fatal shooting of Terence Richardson three years ago. 

Lavell White and Ali Mohammed, 22 and 19, respectively, at the time of their arrests in early 2015, are on trial in Santa Barbara County Superior Court for murder in addition to multiple counts of robbery and burglary.

They are accused of shooting Terence Richardson, 23, in a vehicle near the intersection of Bradley Road and Jones Street on Dec. 30, 2014.

The two men also are accused of robbing marijuana dealers of drugs and cash along with committing several residential burglaries in Santa Maria.

Criminologist David Barber from the California Department of Justice testified about his assessment of the 9-mm weapon allegedly used in the fatal shooting. 

Police found a shell casing in the door handle of the Honda Civic where Richardson was shot while he sat in the front passenger seat.

The gun was found in Kern County many months after the shooting, which police say occurred while Mohammed wielded the firearm. White, who is represented by \attorney Michael Scott, is accused of being the mastermind behind the crimes.

Deputy District Attorney Stephanie Savrnoch asked Barber if any other gun would give the same marks he noted on the shell casing found at the shooting scene and the similar marks found after he test fired the weapon allegedly used in the homicide.

He answered no.

“What I saw is unique to that firing pin, and I saw agreement with the test firing. I wouldn’t expect that in any other gun,” Barber said.

But attorney Lori Pedego, who represents Mohammed, asked the expert about studies doubting the validity about firearms-related tool marks used to help match weapons to crimes.

Barber said he was familiar with those studies. 

Thursday’s lineup included a hodge-podge of witnesses — police officers who collected evidence or took reports, a sheriff’s deputy who testified about narcotics, and the defendants’ former coach who said Richardson, the shooting victim, did not play basketball for his Hancock team.

Another witness, Elias Talamantes, a state prison inmate serving time for a unrelated case, refused to testify, leading the judge to order him held in contempt of court and requiring him to be brought to court each day of the trial to assess whether he had changed his mind.

“I don’t want to testify,” Talamantes said, adding he would not answer questions.

 “I really just don’t feel like saying anything.”

Savrnoch said the man would not face prosecution related to his prior role as a marijuana dealer or for filing a false police report since the statute of limitations had expired for both.

“We are not aware of any other criminal activity we would be asking about,” she said, adding there was no basis for him to invoke his Fifth Amendment rights.

Talamantes, who was represented by attorney David Bixby, confirmed he was not invoking his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

In the weeks before the shooting, Talamantes reportedly told police he had been robbed during an incident with similarities to others believed to have been committed by White and Mohammed.

Thursday marked the final day of testimony before the trial takes a 13-day break until April 11, when testimony will resume at the Santa Maria Court Complex.

After jury selection, the trial moved to Lompoc for opening statements and testimony in hopes proceedings could move forward efficiently without Judge James Voysey having to pause to handle other matters. A visting judge presided over Voysey's normal calendar in Santa Maria's Department 7.

Voysey said on Thursday the defense and prosecuting attorneys hope the case will be in jury’s hands as soon as April 13, a few days after returning from the break.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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