Tivontre Gatling-Mouzon had settled in the backseat of his mother’s car for the road trip. Her boyfriend sat in front, and they all drove north to pick up her teenage daughter in Baltimore.
Gatling-Mouzon never saw the gun covered up on the floor, he told a Baltimore jury Monday.
The 21-year-old Richmond man testified as a key state witness in the murder trial of his mother and her boyfriend. Tonya Hayes, 38, and Marquese Winston, 25, are charged with killing a well-known bartender in Locust Point in November 2017. Alex Wroblewski was gunned down outside the Royal Farms on Key Highway.
Gatling-Mouzon accepted a plea deal for eight years in prison. In exchange, he agreed to testify for the state.
Dressed in a yellow prison jumpsuit, he took the witness stand Monday — looking toward his mother, then looking away — as he answered questions for about two hours. He told the jury they had no plan to rob and shoot someone.
Instead, they had picked up his 15-year-old sister from her father’s house in Baltimore. Then they pulled into the Royal Farms for gas and chips before the trip back to Richmond.
Gatling-Mouzon said he waited in the car, browsing Facebook on his phone, while his mother and her boyfriend went inside. When he looked up, the boyfriend, Winston, was at the car door.
“He reached in by my leg,” Gatling-Mouzon told the jury. “He asked me to come with him around the corner.”
Wroblewski, 41, had been walking home after tending bar at The Rowhouse Grille in Federal Hill. He stopped at Royal Farms around 1:15 a.m. for milk and cookies.
“By the time I got to the corner,” Gatling-Mouzon went on, “Marquese was in his face, saying something I couldn’t hear. I was too far away.”
Prosecutors and defense attorneys have offered far different portrayals of the deadly encounter. Assistant State’s Attorney Sheryl Atkins told jurors that Wroblewski was stalked and shot to death. Defense attorney Julie Shapiro, however, blamed Wroblewski, saying he lunged forward and instigated the violence.
Gatling-Mouzon said he glimpsed Winston pull a gun, then he turned back and ran for the car. “Before I got in the car, I heard a shot.”
In a moment, Winston was back at the car and climbing into the front passenger seat, he said.
“I start yelling at him, Marquese, like, ‘What you just did? I got a daughter at home!,’ ” he told the jury. “We’re going to get in trouble for your actions. That’s what I was yelling at him for.”
They drove south and Gatling-Mouzon was arrested the next day in Richmond. He admitted to initially lying to detectives and saying he wasn’t even there. Hayes and Winston were arrested in Atlanta, Ga. Authorities charged both of them with 22 counts, including murder, robbery, assault.
Security cameras captured the crime, and attorneys played the footage in the courtroom Monday. It shows Gatling-Mouzon put up his hood as he walks after Wroblewski.
Defense attorney Natalie Finegar asked if he was trying to help his mother. Gatling-Mouzon had insisted they did not plan to rob someone. Yet he accepted a deal under which he pleaded guilty to a conspiracy to commit armed robbery.
“Are you saying that today to just save your mother?” Finegar asked.
“No, ma’am,” he said.
His mother sat across the courtroom. And during a break, he looked to her and mouthed some words before a sheriff’s deputy blocked the way.