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‘That’s not the car’: Key witness harms prosecution’s attempt to link suspect to death of 7-year-old Taylor Hayes

‘That’s not the car’: Key witness harms prosecution’s attempt to link suspect to death of 7-year-old Taylor Hayes
Angel Gray, who is an aunt of Taylor Hayes, joined dozens of relatives and friends of the family of the 7 year old, who was killed last summer, as they attended a Peace Walk in her honor in the Edmondson Village neighborhood recently. (Barbara Haddock Taylor / Baltimore Sun)

Days of testimony and a parade of witnesses meant to connect Keon Gray to a white Mercedes-Benz used by the killer of a 7-year old girl were undercut Wednesday with a gasp from the prosecution’s own witness.

“That’s not the car,” the 32-year old woman testified, her voice rising in apparent stunned disbelief. Looking at the photo, the witness insisted: “Yes this is a Benz, but this is not the Benz."

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Neither police nor prosecutors had ever shown the woman pictures of the white Mercedes they said was driven by Gray as he allegedly fired a bullet that killed young Taylor Hayes last summer. She even sent them photos of the model of the car she saw at the scene minutes before the shooting, she testified.

The Baltimore State’s Attorneys Office asked The Baltimore Sun not to publish the woman’s name, saying it could put her in danger.

Throughout the trial prosecutors have presented evidence that the Mercedes used in the shooting crashed nearby, and that a small amount of Gray’s DNA was found on an airbag.

That set the stage for Wednesday’s witness, who said she came forward immediately after the shooting because she had a son about Taylor’s age and wanted to help.

The witness told investigators that she watched from afar a “heated argument” between a woman standing beside a blue Honda and a man in a Mercedes. As the witness pulled away, she noticed the man grab what appeared to be a gun from his car. She circled back to the scene but the woman and the Honda were already gone, she testified.

Taylor Hayes sat inside the Honda, which was driven by her godmother, Darnell Holmes, police have said. Taylor was obscured by window tint and the witness never saw her.

Malik Edison, Holmes’ friend, already has testified that he was armed and sitting in the Honda’s passenger seat, also obscured by tinted windows. Edison testified that he exchanged nearly two dozen shots in a heated gunfight with Gray as they sped down a West Baltimore Street, and that one of Gray’s shots struck and killed Taylor.

Not long after the shooting, the witness learned what happened from news reports. She immediately called the police to report the argument and describe the two cars.

But Wednesday,during cross-examination, Gray’s attorney Ken Ravenell handed her photos of the white Mercedes in which prosecutors said Gray’s DNA had been found.

“That’s not the car,” she said.

The white Mercedes she saw at the altercation had a cream color interior, she testified. She called herself a car fanatic, and said she remembered because it was an especially nice vehicle. Not only did the interior color not match, but the shape and model of the car shown in court were also wrong.

“That whole car is wrong,” she testified.

Ravenell also pointed out that the witness didn’t identify Gray as the driver of the white Mercedes in a set of photos provided by detectives.

Gray is charged with 32 counts, including murder, illegally possessing a handgun and reckless endangerment. With a few more witnesses scheduled by the prosecutors and the defense yet to present its side, the trial will go on for the rest of the week.

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