Victim’s family removed from court after emotions flare
This was a man who had once attended holidays and family gatherings. So naturally, Lewis’ mother, Jacqueline, lashed out, launching into an expletive-laced tirade. Sheriff’s officers had to remove her from the courtroom when she interrupted the proceedings.
That was the divisive backdrop of this evidentiary hearing Wednesday in a case that has wrenched a family apart. Bush was engaged to the victim’s cousin, Ghadah, when he allegedly killed Lewis on Aug. 23, 2013 over a drug debt.
“It’s an intra-family tragedy,” said Jack Furlong, Bush’s attorney. Bush, 37, was indicted by a grand jury last year, has pleaded not guilty and rejected a plea offer of 29 years for aggravated manslaughter. The start of trial was set for July 6 but that is expected to change.
Added Furlong: “I don’t expect any winners, regardless of the outcome.”
A hearing was held so Assistant Prosecutor Lewis Korngut and Furlong could argue about whether prosecutors should be allowed to present evidence of Bush’s alleged motive.
Judge Robert Billmeier, taking his cues from the appellate court, said a trial jury would likely hear a “sanitized” version of events relayed by Lewis’ fiancée, Twanna Robinson, who claims to have witnessed the murder on Middle Rose Street.
Robinson testified her fiancé was involved in a “business relationship” with Bush, a known heroin dealer. The men, who were acquainted for years, had a falling out after Lewis was provided 80 bricks of heroin by Bush. Lewis was supposed to sell the drugs and return the profits to Bush.
Prosecutors believe Bush grew enraged after he couldn’t get in touch with Lewis and believed he stiffed him out of drug proceeds.
Robinson said she recalled being in a vehicle with Bush and Lewis about a week before the murder, when they set up their drug-dealing arrangement. Bush allegedly unloaded 80 bricks of heroin, wrapped in newspaper, in the back seat. Then he turned to Lewis and told him there was more if he flipped it.
“This 80, you knock this off, I got 250 for you,” Robinson recalled hearing Bush say.
After Robinson dropped off her fiancé, she unloaded the bricks from her vehicle and placed them into the basement of the home the couple shared. Later, she and Lewis drove to a remote wooded part of Ewing, where he buried the heroin while she waited in the car.
That weekend the couple went to Atlantic City. Robinson posted photos of them on her Facebook and Instagram accounts. Bush’s fiancée, Ghahada, must have saw them and told her beau.
Bush wondered where Lewis got the money to go to Atlantic City.
Robinson said she saw numerous text messages and private Facebook messages between Lewis and Ghadah the day of the murder. She had reached out to her cousin at Bush’s urging after he was incommunicado.
According to documents of the messages read in court, Ghadah Lewis reportedly told her cousin he was “grimy” because she believed he was dodging Bush’s calls. She said she had convinced Bush to front him the drugs.
“Family ain’t never do shit for me,” Jafar Lewis texted back.
Furlong pointed out on cross examination Robinson never mentioned the drug transaction that allegedly took place a week before Lewis’ death in prior statements to police. She didn’t come forward with the information until last month. The transaction is important because it underpins the state’s theory of Bush’s motive.
When police initially asked Robinson if the men had any prior problems, she failed to mention text and Facebook messages.
Furlong appeared incredulous of Robinson’s purported “fantasy world.”