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Boy, 13, shot during killing of father takes witness stand

A boy testified in court about being shot and jumping from a second-floor window after his father was killed.

A 13-year-old West Baltimore boy took the witness stand in the murder trial of his father's accused killer, recounting how he was watching "Family Guy" in his bedroom when he heard a commotion and came face to face with a gunman.

The shooter turned the gun on the boy, who was 11 at the time, firing shots that struck him once in the leg as he raced upstairs. He locked the door behind him and jumped from his second-story bedroom window to flag down police. Acting on his information, officers quickly converged on the home and found two men hiding in the basement, prosecutors say.

One of those men was Joseph Oglesby, a 39-year-old who is fighting murder charges at trial. Oglesby knew the boy's father, Ralph Timmons, and is accused of targeting his home with another man for a burglary on April 1, 2013, that went awry.

"They thought the home was unoccupied," Assistant State's Attorney Tonya LaPolla told jurors Friday. "They were wrong."

Months after his death, Timmons would be posthumously indicted as part of the Black Guerrilla Family jail conspiracy case. Timmons was the half brother of gang leader Tavon White, who pleaded guilty for his role at the top of the racketeering conspiracy that smuggled drugs and cellphones into the City Detention Center. Authorities have said Timmons helped run the gang's operations from the outside.

Oglesby's defense attorneys invoked the high-profile case — which netted more than 40 federal convictions of inmates, corrections officers and others — to raise questions about who else might have been after Timmons. They also questioned the testimony of his alleged accomplice, John Knox, that Oglesby was the gunman.

LaPolla painted a picture of a simple botched burglary that went bad when a father who was out getting pizza for his son returned home. Police found Oglesby and Knox hiding in the basement, with Oglesby wedged inside a fold-up couch.

Knox has pleaded guilty to all charges, including murder and attempted murder, and took the stand Monday to testify against Oglesby. Knox, who has no deal with prosecutors, said he wasn't bothered that Timmons lost his life. But learning of the shooting of Timmons' son "changed everything," he testified.

"I'm not a monster," Knox told jurors. "I couldn't protect someone who would do that."

Oglesby's attorneys said he didn't shoot Timmons or his son but had been at the pizza place with Timmons and returned to the home with him. Oglesby gave that account to detectives the night of his capture, saying that he had fled to the basement for safety.

LaPolla told jurors that Oglesby's account strained common sense. For instance, she asked why he didn't run outside when he heard shots fired.

Knox was 21 and just weeks away from moving to Florida to attend college at the time of the killing, but a crippling addiction was at the forefront his mind, he testified. Knox had lost his mother months before the burglary and said he became addicted to drugs.

"At the time I was thinking about getting high," Knox testified. "As an addict, you have to constantly have something in you so you can function."

Knox testified that he met Oglesby at a downtown mosque, and Oglesby — who has since changed his name to Yusef Mu'Meen — approached him with the plan.

Knox said he did not know Timmons, while Timmons and Oglesby had known each other since childhood. At the time of the shooting, Timmons was dating Oglesby's wife — an arrangement that prosecutors and his defense attorney agree that Oglesby didn't mind.

Knox testified that on the night of the break-in, he and Oglesby cased the home and waited for a car out front to leave. All the lights were off except for a kitchen stove light, and Knox said he broke in and opened the door for Oglesby.

Unbeknownst to them, Timmons' son was upstairs in his bedroom.

Knox said he and Oglesby were rifling through items when Timmons returned. Timmons saw Knox closing a kitchen closet door and confronted him, a knife in one hand and a phone in the other. "You [messed] up," Knox recalled Timmons saying to him.

The boy — who The Baltimore Sun is not identifying because he is a juvenile crime victim — testified that he heard a commotion and came downstairs. His father was standing over someone and motioned to him to take the cellphone out of his hand and call police. Suddenly, a man dressed in black and a mask emerged from the basement and opened fire, the boy said.

"What did you see happening to your father?" LaPolla asked the boy, who is now in seventh grade.

"It was like flashing, just gunshots," he testified.

"What if anything did [Timmons] do?"

"Fell," the boy said.

Knox testified that Timmons' last words were: "No, that's my son!" Knox said he was unaware that Oglesby was carrying a gun.

The boy said he froze, then the shooter turned the gun on him and began firing. He was struck once in the upper leg as he climbed the steps to safety. He was hospitalized for a week and was not told for several days that his father had been killed.

When he was interviewed by police, the boy said the shooter's face had been covered but that he looked like one of his uncles. On the stand, he clarified that he meant the shooter had his uncle's build, but defense attorneys have used the statement to raise questions about the shooter's identity.

They also highlighted how Knox changed his story over the course of interviews with police. In one interview, Knox said he took Timmons' car keys from his belt and also picked up his knife, though he testified Monday that it was Oglesby.

"Growing up in a city like this, it's not best to tell on people," Knox said of his changing story. "I tried my best to keep my integrity, stick to the code. … Sitting in prison made me change my mind."

jfenton@baltsun.com

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