Sixteen-year-old City College student Arnesha Bowers was a "nice little girl" who "seemed spoiled" because she had a new iPhone, a man who has pleaded guilty to participating in her murder testified Wednesday.
Adonay Dixon, 25, took the stand at the murder trial of Raeshawn Rivers, 14, and calmly laid out the sequence of events last year that saw a botched burglary of Bowers' home turn into a killing they sought to cover up by setting fires.
Prosecutors say Rivers, who is being tried as an adult, was an active participant in the June 2015 killing. Dixon testified that Rivers had agreed to help distract Bowers, who had a crush on him, while the others rifled through the home.
Dixon said there was no plan or discussion about harming Bowers — until another co-defendant who has pleaded guilty, 22-year-old John Childs, unexpectedly struck her repeatedly over the head with a meat tenderizer.
At that point, Dixon testified, he thought: "'If she's not dead, she's got to die.'"
"Why did she have to die?" Assistant State's Attorney Sharon Holback asked.
"In case she woke up and went to tell," Dixon said.
Rivers' defense attorney is arguing that he had affection for Bowers and was hanging out with her when the men began attacking her. She told jurors Tuesday that Rivers was powerless to stop the older men.
Dixon pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, arson, burglary, armed robbery and related conspiracy counts in exchange for a sentence of life with all but 50 years suspended. His plea agreement called for him to testify.
Dixon said he had known Rivers for only two months but had grown close to him. Bowers invited Rivers to her home on June 6, 2015, Dixon said, and the three devised a plan to steal items. Rivers said he wanted her iPhone, and they would split up the rest.
"We was planning on somehow sliding in there … and get what we get and leave," Dixon said.
Bowers, in a bedroom with Rivers, saw a shadow and left to investigate, Dixon said.
She was startled to find Dixon and Childs in the home, he said, but she continued hanging out with the three of them.
She fixed Dixon "a plate of greens," he said, and told him to help himself to something to drink while they watched TV.
Prosecutors told jurors in opening arguments that Dixon grabbed Bowers in a bear hug, then handed the meat tenderizer to Childs, who struck her.
Dixon testified that there was no plan to hurt her. He said he had grabbed the meat tenderizer and tossed it to Childs.
Asked why he picked it up, he said: "I really couldn't say. I grabbed it just to grab it."
Childs, however, looked at him as if seeking direction, he said.
Childs suddenly struck her in the head, he said. She pleaded with Childs to stop, but he struck her several more times until she was unconscious, Dixon said.
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Rivers looked on stunned, Dixon testified, but didn't say anything or intervene.
"Did [Rivers] tell anyone to let her live, or to stop hurting her?" Holback asked. Dixon said no.
Dixon said he determined that Bowers had to be killed and her body disposed of. He said Childs took her into the basement while Rivers and Dixon ransacked the home for electronics, food and other belongings.
Dixon said Rivers helped spread flammable liquid upstairs that was set ablaze.
Prosecutors have said Bowers was raped and strangled with a wire, and her body was set on fire in addition to other parts of the home.
Childs pleaded guilty last week and was sentenced to life in prison. He is not expected to testify.