The survivor bearing scars from a robbery-shooting that resulted in the murder of her boyfriend six years ago testified Monday in Washington County Court she thought Brandon Wolowski was joking when he demanded the boyfriend’s guns.
Michelle Powell, 45, of Washington’s West End told jurors Wolowski, 24, of Washington brought crack cocaine with him to their home so she and her boyfriend, Matthew Mathias, would smoke it.
Powell said Wolowski then pointed his own gun at her, and told her, “This is not a ----ing joke. I want the guns.”
Deputy District Attorney Leslie Ridge, in her opening statement, contended Wolowski planned to rob his friends of guns so he could stave off eviction and enticed them with the drug so they would be caught off guard.
Alleged premeditation is the reason why the prosecution is seeking the death penalty against Wolowski, 24, who lived near Mathias and Powell.
Ridge stressed Powell’s eyewitness testimony and a 32-minute audio recording of Wolowski’s confession at the city police department as the “top of a mountain of evidence.”
But Wolowski’s court-appointed attorney, Noah Geary, argued in his presentation to the jury and in cross-examination of a witness Larry McElhaney, the father of the defendant’s girlfriend, was going to pay the $1,200 rent bill.
“I will have questions about this so-called mountain of evidence,” Geary said after walking behind Wolowski and placing his hands on shoulders of the accused.
“Brandon is 24 now,” he said. “When this happened, he was 19.”
Geary intends to focus on what he called a lack of evidence in questioning what he views as shortcomings in the investigation of Matthias’ murder.
“No one deserves to be shot and killed. No one deserves to be shot.
“But no one deserves to be wrongfully convicted, either,” Geary said in asking each juror to keep an open mind.
Ridge referred to the defense arguments as an attempt to distract jurors.
Powell and Mathias had been boyfriend and girlfriend for four years, living together for four years in the 900 block of Fayette St.
She described Mathias, who died Jan. 8, 2013, at age 37 as partially blind and partially deaf. He kept his collection of firearms locked in a safe in the hallway of his home.
Powell said she was a friend of Wolowski’s mother “He would just come over and hang out,” she told the jury. Wolowski and Mathias would discuss guns and cars.
She described the 2013 shooting episode in which Mathias fled their home. His body was found in the front yard. The jury also saw photos of blood at the front door where Powell said she tried to shield herself from Wolowski’s gunfire.
Powell was shot in the jaw, arm and abdomen, wounds she showed the jury, and described disabilities with which she tries to cope.
The night of the shooting, fearing death, she crossed the street to a neighbor’s home from which a call was made to summon police and paramedics.
Geary noted a recording made to the 911 call center in which he said Powell, in the background, can be heard identifying her boyfriend as the shooter.
Powell also testified about an incident in June 2012 when Mathias was cleaning a gun and the two got into a fight. “He threatened to shoot me,” she said. At a preliminary hearing she denied this happened, so she was charged with making a false report to law enforcement authorities, a charge to which she later pleaded guilty and was placed on probation for a year.
The panel of eight men and five women comprise the jury, which includes three alternates.
Judge John DiSalle ordered jurors to report for the second day of testimony today at 9:30 a.m.