A jury trial began Monday for Chase Simmons, the now-20-year-old charged with the 2019 murder of teenagers Amarius “Mari” Winstead and Jasper “Rex” Brown as well as assault for the non-fatal shooting of Tyler Glover, also a teen at the time. Highlights from the first day included testimony from the teenager who threw the party in Whitesville where the shooting took place and the teenagers who rushed Brown to the hospital.
The trial will resume Tuesday and likely last throughout the week. Monday morning was spent on jury selection, with the trial itself actually beginning shortly after 1:30 p.m.
Quick facts of the case
A party took place at 8221 Crisp Road starting the evening of May 31, 2019. A shooting took place around 12:30 a.m. on June 1. Simmons was arrested on June 6, and he was charged with the murder of Winstead, 16, and Brown, 18. Simmons was also charged with second-degree assault because Glover, 19 at the time, was also shot but recovered from his injuries.
Prosecution’s opening statement
Editor’s Note: While the opening statement includes references to what will be presented as evidence this week, the jury is instructed that anything said by attorneys are not to be considered evidence.
Daviess County Commonwealth’s Attorney Bruce Kuegel is the lead prosecutor on the case. Kuegel said that Bailey Eubanks, who was 16 at the time, threw a party at her home on Crisp Road the night of May 31. The party took place in a pole barn on the property of the home.
Kuegel said the party grew larger than expected because people who weren’t necessarily invited showed up. He said shots were fired at approximately 12:25 a.m., and the first 911 call came in around 12:30 p.m., at which time first responders were dispatched to the scene.
Brown was taken to the hospital by two other teenagers at the party, but there was nothing that could be done and he was pronounced dead. The other two victims were transported via ambulance to the hospital, where Glover was rushed to surgery and Winstead was pronounced dead.
Kuegel said back at the residence, law enforcement had begun securing the scene and trying to conduct interviews. He said people were scattering because of safety concerns.
“This is a party for young people. This is not supposed to be carnage and death,” Kuegel said.
During the course of the investigation, deputies spoke “to a number of people that were reportedly at the party” and “left very few stones unturned as far as trying to find out who was there, who the shooter was, what happened,” Kuegel said.
Kuegel said the Daviess County Sheriff’s Office caught a break in the case when Savannah Helm came forward with testimony. He said Helm will testify that she and three friends were told about the party and were on their way when she got a call from a cell phone number that was listed in her phone contacts as belonging to Simmons. Kuegel said Simmons implicated himself as the shooter during that interaction over the cell phone.
Kuegel then detailed how DCSO received a tip that Simmons was at a home in the Greystone subdivision near Audubon Elementary School in western Daviess County. Local, state, and federal law enforcement converged on the area, and after a short standoff Simmons came out of the residence with a phone in his hand, according to Kuegel. Upon searching the residence, more items related to the case were found, including a second cell phone.
Kuegel said those two phones are crucial pieces of evidence.
At the time, while shell casings had been collected at the scene, no murder weapon had been found. Kuegel said DCSO got a tip on June 7 that the weapon was at a trailer court in Browns Valley in southern Daviess County.
During a search, a Glock 9 mm along with a semi-clear magazine was found, according to Kuegel. He said the shell casings matched the handgun. However, Kuegel said a DNA analysis did not yield anything.
The next big break in the case came when Andrew Pierce agreed to what Kuegel called a “proffer.” Initially, Pierce gave a statement essentially saying he didn’t know anything, but police thought he had more information, according to Kuegel. When police tried a second time to talk to Pierce, he had an attorney.
Kuegel said that’s when the phones came into play, as the FBI did downloads on phones belonging to Helm, Simmons, and Pierce. Kuegel said those phones put Pierce and Simmons together before, during, and after the shooting.
The prosecution approached Pierce’s attorney with the “proffer” that in exchange for Pierce’s testimony, they wouldn’t press charges for hindering apprehension of Simmons. Pierce accepted and provided a statement.
Kuegel said, “That statement is very, very damaging to Mr. Simmons because … the rest of the story was that Andrew Pierce was with Chase that evening, and he went into a lot of detail about what they did, where they were going, and how they ended up with him driving Chase Simmons to Whitesville, parking the car, Chase Simmons getting out and saying ‘wait here just a minute I’ll be right back’ while he’s sitting there. He will show you [on a map] … the approximate location where his car was whenever he heard those shots, and immediately thereafter Chase Simmons comes running back to the car. He will also tell you that prior to that, he has not seen a gun. But after the shooting, he will tell you about the gun, what he saw, and he will describe the gun.”
Kuegel said phone records will show that the two went from Owensboro to Whitesville, back to Owensboro, then to the trailer park in Browns Valley.
Finally, Kuegel said there will be testimony from someone who lived in the trailer park at the time and was interviewed at a later date, when “she told us about statements that Mr. Simmons made to her that directly implicate him as the person” responsible for the shooting.
Defense’s opening statement
Simmons is being represented by Patrick Flaherty and Bryce Caldwell. The defense chose to reserve its opening statement until the end of the prosecution’s case.
Testimony from Angela Martin and April Winstead, mothers of deceased
The mothers of both of the murder victims briefly took the stand to begin the prosecutions case. Kuegel presented them each with a photo of their son. Martin said her son Jasper was still in high school and was two months away from turning 19. Winstead said her son Amari lived in Evansville and attended Bosse High School; he had just turned 16 and was attending the party with Glover.
Testimony from Bailey Eubanks
Eubanks gave a detailed and emotional account of the events that transpired the night of the shooting. She had just finished her sophomore year at Daviess County High School, and decided to throw a party for 20-30 friends from 8 p.m. until midnight.
Eubanks said her mother Hailey Eubanks Norris thought it was only going to be a small group, but because of people inviting friends and the details being posted on social media, “it got rather large.” Norris, along with her boyfriend and other children, were inside the home during the party. The party took place in a pole barn located just south of the house.
Eubanks said there were only about 10 people there at 8 p.m., but by around 10:30 p.m. she realized there were cars filling up the driveway and there were “at least” 40-50 people there. She said she didn’t recognize everyone who was showing up.
Eubanks said there were only two entrances to the barn — the main garage door that was open, and a side door that led directly to her house. She said there was a light above the main door but it wasn’t very bright.
While most people were parking in the long driveway that formed a loop around the house, Eubanks said one vehicle — a “rather old” white car — was parked directly next to the pole barn. She said it was memorable because that area often flooded, and because they showed up later than most everyone else so she wondered how they got past the other vehicles. Eubanks said she introduced herself to the driver because she needed to tell him his car was going to get stuck and would need help getting out.
Eubanks said one of her friends she hadn’t seen in a long time showed up just before midnight, so she asked her mom if she could keep the party going a little longer. Norris later testified that she gave permission for everyone to stay just a little longer.
Eubanks said she returned to the pole barn and was sitting in the back with friends. She said she took a picture at 12:26 a.m., and immediately after that she heard the shots ring out.
She said there was one shot, then a pause, then seven to eight more shots. Eubanks said at first she thought it was fireworks. She said she tried to run for the side door, but she was tackled by her then-boyfriend Damian Lovinsky, who told her someone was shooting.
Eubanks said as everyone started dispersing, she went through the side door so she could get to her mom inside the house. She said at that time she noticed two males trying to lift a black male — who she later found out was Brown — into a black car. At the time, she thought that was the only person to be shot.
Eubanks said she saw that her mom was already outside, so she turned around to go back to the barn. She said she saw another person who was “definitely not alert” being dragged through the mud near the white car.
Eubanks had previously known Winstead, so she immediately recognized him as the one on the ground. She said Winstead’s eyes were closed, he was pale, and she “didn’t see much blood but you could see where the bullet entered.”
Eubanks sat down on the ground with Winstead’s head in her lap, but her mother and step-father came up and said she was too young to see that so they told her to try to get in touch with Winstead’s family.
She said she was finally able to get through to Winstead’s mother to let her know what happened.
Around that time, Eubanks discovered Glover — who she didn’t know at the time — had also been shot in the groin but had not told anyone.
After the three victims had been transported to the hospital, police were starting to mark signs of evidence. She said they were marking spots that were just outside the reach of the light on the front of the pole barn.
Eubanks said she had never met Simmons, but knew who he was and had seen him before. Eubanks and her cousin Matthew Hale both worked at Bowlodrome, and Hale was friends with Simmons’ brother Andrew. Both Eubanks and Hale testified that Chase Simmons previously held a birthday party for his child at the bowling alley.
She said she saw Hale at the party and that he was talking to someone that looked like Simmons, but she couldn’t be sure it was Simmons.
Eubanks also admitted some people brought their own alcohol and marijuana but it wasn’t supplied, and her mother didn’t know it was there.
Eubanks also told the defense she remembered doing a 2-3 hour interview with law enforcement after the incident, but the defense noted that the summary they were given of that interview was less than one page long. They also said she never mentioned anything about Winstead during that interview.
Testimony from Damian Lovinsky
Lovinsky was 16 and attended Apollo High School at the time of the incident. He said it was actually his idea to throw the party, and that at first Eubanks was hesitant but he convinced her to go through with it.
He also said it started out with only people they knew, but it grew beyond the people initially invited — though he said he thought it only got up to about 40 people. Lovinsky said he made it a point to approach anyone he didn’t recognize to ask how they heard about the party.
Lovinsky said he was walking someone to their car — located in the driveway south of the pole barn — when he heard the shots ring out, and he also initially thought it was fireworks because they were in quick succession. He couldn’t remember how many shots were fired but knew it was more than two.
He claimed he saw at least one flash, and that he saw someone with a black hoodie. Lovinsky said he ran to find Eubanks in the pole barn, then he saw the person in the hoodie run past the side door and up a hill.
Lovinsky said he and Eubanks made their way to the back porch of the house. He turned back around, and that’s when he saw Brown and Winstead both on the ground.
Lovinsky said he hadn’t previously known Brown, but met him when Brown parked the white car by the barn — as Lovinsky said he went with Eubanks to say the car would get stuck there. He said he also didn’t know Winstead prior, but that Eubanks knew him. He said he later realized Glover was shot, and also didn’t know him at the time.
He also said he’d seen a photo of Simmons but never met him. Lovinsky said he probably wouldn’t have been able to recognize Simmons if he saw him at the party.
Lovinsky said he never saw a gun, but was confident the person in the black hoodie was the shooter because that was the direction the flash and sound of gunfire came from. Lovinsky said the person was shorter than 6 feet tall and was skinny, and thought his hand was white.
Testimony from Hailey Norris
Norris said she was aware of a “get together” but thought it was only going to be about 20 people made up of students from Apollo and Daviess County high schools. She said she stayed inside with her other four children for most of the night. Norris said she only went out to check on the party once, and that her then-boyfriend went out twice, but she didn’t recall how long they were outside.
Norris said that a little before midnight, she told Eubanks and Lovinsky that it was time to wrap the party up because it was late and there were too many people there. She said she thought there were about 50 people there — and she was unaware of any alcohol or marijuana being present.
Norris acknowledged telling Eubanks people could stay a little longer because her friend had just shown up. Not long after that, Norris heard what she thought was fireworks. Moments later, Norris said, some girls ran into the house saying someone was outside shooting.
She called 911 as she ran outside, where she described the scene as “chaos” with cars driving away and people running.
Norris said she saw two boys trying to put Winstead — though she didn’t know who he was at the time — in a car before placing him in Eubanks’ lap. Norris said she made Eubanks go inside to get washrags while she stayed with Winstead.
Norris said she could see his gunshot wound and that he was starting to “cough up foamy blood” that had a “very stout smell.” She then told Eubanks to try to get in touch with Winstead’s mother.
“I’m still holding him. I wasn’t going to leave him by himself,” Norris said.
Norris said Glover — who she also didn’t know — then said he thought he’d been shot. She said Glover lifted his shirt to reveal a gunshot wound near the abdomen area.
Norris also said she remembered seeing Hale at the party sometime earlier in the day.
Testimony from Scott Cox
Cox said he rode to the party with his friend Dymond Harris and thinks they got there around 9-10 p.m. Cox said they were just hanging out, and that he didn’t know everyone there, including the victims. He admitted to drinking while at the party.
Cox said he was playing cornhole in front of the barn when the shots rang out. He said he was facing north, and the shots were fired by someone at a 45-degree angle to his right. He said he ducked and saw a couple flashes as the shots were fired, but didn’t see the person who shot them.
Cox said Harris then ran out and started helping Brown into Harris’ car, a black Ford Mustang. Cox said he didn’t know Brown before that time, but picked him up because he was hurt badly and was trying to help Harris.
Cox said they tried to flag down an ambulance on the way to the hospital, but the ambulance drove past in order to respond to the scene. Cox said he heard a couple moans from Brown as they drove.
The defense questioned Cox about a statement he made on June 1. According to the defense, Cox said the shooter was a black male aged 15-25 who pulled a gun out of a waistband and pointed it at the subject. Cox said he remembers talking to an officer but doesn’t remember what he said. He said he was “pretty buzzed up” from drinking beer at the party.
Testimony from Dymond Harris
Harris said he heard about the party via a social media post, and that he arrived with Cox between 9-10 p.m. He said he knew several people there, including Winstead and Brown. He also said he recorded a video of himself talking to each of them at the party.
Harris said he was playing cornhole with Cox when the shooting took place. He said he heard some yelling just before the shots were fired, but doesn’t know what was said. When he turned around, he heard the gunshots.
Harris claimed he saw Brown laying on the ground curled up, with the shooter — dressed in black — standing over Brown with a handgun pointed at him. Harris said he could see a “white glare” from the shooter’s face. Harris said he’s never seen that individual before, and had never seen Simmons before.
Harris said he ran toward Brown, and the shooter ran away. Harris then said he and Cox loaded Brown into the Mustang and took him to the hospital; he said he stopped twice to try to flag down an ambulance but was unsuccessful.
On the way, Harris said Brown’s voice got quiet and that he knew Brown was dead when they got to the hospital.
The defense said that in the summary of Harris’ statement given immediately after the incident, it didn’t include any testimony that Harris saw the shots and that he only heard them. On Monday, he said he saw the shots; he also said he told officers from the beginning that he saw the shots. That summary also indicated Harris initially said the shooter could be “white or light-skinned” but on Monday he said he was “positive” the shooter was white.
Testimony from Matthew Hale
Hale, 17 at the time of the incident, said he’d been to the property once or twice before, and that he was present for a short period the day of the party. He said that he was invited, and that he went with Andrew Simmons. Hale claimed there were 100+ people there when he arrived; he couldn’t remember a time, but said it was already dark.
Hale said he was at the Simmons’ house prior to going to the party. He said he remembered seeing Pierce there at “1ish” but doesn’t remember seeing Chase Simmons.
Hale said he was only at the party for an hour or less, and that he doesn’t remember seeing Eubanks or her mom. Hale said he was already back home when he found out there had been a shooting.
Hale said neither he nor Andrew Simmons talked to anyone on their phone while at the party. He said the mood seemed “mellow” and that there were no signs of any problems.
He also acknowledged that Chase Simmons had thrown a party for his child at Bowlodrome prior to the shooting incident.
We’ll continue to provide updates as the trial continues.