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Teen may testify in his murder trial today

POSTED: October 22, 2007 5:04 a.m.
Hall County jurors on Wednesday heard a recording of Gainesville teenager Chaz Stringer admit to a fatal shooting. Today, they’re likely to hear from him in person.

Stringer’s attorney, Brian Steel, indicated he would call his client to the witness stand before resting the defense case today. Stringer is expected to explain why he told a detective, "I did it" when questioned about the murder of 29-year-old restaurant worker Victor "Charlie" De La Rosa in a June 8, 2006, attempted armed robbery.

The confession made to Gainesville police Investigator Kevin Gaddis some five hours after the shooting at Garcia’s Restaurant is the defense’s biggest hurdle. Steel told the jury in his opening statement Tuesday that his client was covering for the real killer, an older man who belonged to a gang his client wanted to join.

On Wednesday, the lawyer implied in his questioning of Gaddis that Stringer may have thought he would get a lighter punishment as a juvenile. Stringer was just 15 at the time of the killing. He was charged as an adult with murder.

Wednesday morning, Assistant District Attorney Juliet Aldridge played jurors the audio recordings of three separate interviews conducted at police headquarters after a sheriff’s deputy caught Stringer trying to sneak out the back door of a Tulip Drive home.

Stringer’s mother, Eleanor, accompanied him to the interview and signed a waiver form allowing him to talk to police.

As the detective continued to press Stringer to open up, his mother said, "There’s a camera in that restaurant. You might as well tell him if you know anything."

Garcia’s did have two surveillance cameras, but they were not running at the time of the shooting, according to court testimony.

Gaddis told the teen, "If you weren’t the one who shot him, I need to know that, too."

Stringer then said, "I did it, man."

After confessing to the shooting, Stringer blamed his actions on intoxication.

"I had been drinking, drinking all day," Stringer told the detective. "It was like a dream; it don’t even seem like it happened."

The shot fired at De La Rosa initially struck his hand before passing into his chest, according to court testimony.

When Stringer told the detective he fired the shot, he wasn’t sure if it was fatal, according to the interview.

"Can you tell me if he’s dead or is he alive?" Stringer asked the detective on the audio tape.

"He’s dead," Gaddis responded.

"He’s dead? No." Stringer said. The suspect pointed to his own hand and said, "I though I’d shot him here," according to court testimony.

Several hours later, Stringer asked to speak to the detective again.

"I just want you to know, I don’t feel like I was in my right mind when I did this," Stringer said. "I still don’t feel like I did this."

Jurors watched several minutes of video footage of Stringer while he sat waiting in the interview room, slumped over in a chair and holding his head in his hands.

The state rested its case after Gaddis finished his testimony.

Steel called seven defense witnesses Wednesday, including an East Hall High School student who claimed he was walking with Stringer at the time the fatal shot rang out.

Detrick Watson, 17, said he and Stringer were "down the street, like five minutes" from Garcia’s when they heard a gunshot.

"We heard a gunshot, and then we just took off running," Watson said. He said he ran home, while Stringer took off in another direction.

Watson denied to prosecutor Aldridge that he provided the alibi testimony after Stringer asked him to. Aldridge asked Watson whether he told anyone prior to two weeks ago that he had been with Stringer at the time of the shooting. The witness said he told his mother and an unidentified police officer.

Later, Stringer’s father, David Stringer, acknowledged under cross-examination that he was surprised when he was told last week that an alibi witness had come forward.

Steel called a Georgia Bureau of Investigation scientist to testify that hairs found on the outside of a T-shirt and from a "doo-rag" seized as evidence were inconsistent with hairs taken from Stringer. Microanalyst Terri Santamaria said the examination was done under a microscope and the questionable hairs were too small for DNA testing.

The jury could get the case for deliberations after closing arguments today.

Stringer, 17, faces a mandatory life sentence if convicted of murder.



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