The day of Dec. 9, 2014 certainly has significance to Wayne Best’s family.
That’s the day they lost Best, the day prosecutors say Troy Saunders robbed and killed him.
But to Saunders, who testified in his own defense Friday, that date held no importance, at least not at the time. That’s because he had nothing to do with Best’s killing, he said on the witness stand.
“I can’t say what I did on December 9 because I don’t remember the date,” Saunders testified after prosecutors rested their case. “But at the same time, I can’t say that on Dec. 9 I didn’t lend nobody my vehicle because, again, I don’t remember the date.”
He only learned of the date’s significance more than a year later, he testified, when city police investigators visited him and accused him of involvement in the shooting.
Saunders, 32, is standing trial for allegedly being the masked man who gunned down Best on Parkwood Boulevard earlier that morning. He and others plotted to rob Best of marijuana, police said. Two others were charged in the plot with Saunders, but they pleaded guilty to robbery and testified against him.
Saunders is representing himself in the case, leading to the unusual scene Friday in which he told his version of events without questions posed to him.
He admitted to knowing several of the key figures in the shooting, including his former co-defendants Todd Macon, 30, and Christopher E. Johnson, 26. But he said he didn’t accompany them, didn’t participate in a plot against Best and didn’t shoot Best.
“I know that I didn’t know Wayne Best,” Saunders said. “I know that I never met him and I didn’t know he was dead until around February 2016 when the officers came.”
Prosecutors indicted Saunders on the first-degree murder charge weeks after the officers visited.
“I had no reason to kill Wayne Best,” Saunders said.
Under cross-examination, prosecutor Christina Tremante-Pelham questioned Saunders about not knowing about Best’s death, about the SUV used in the murder and testimony placing a .25-caliber gun in Saunders’ possession in the days leading up to the murder. A .25-caliber gun was used to kill Best, but the gun was never recovered.
Tremante-Pelham showed two surveillance stills of the SUV that followed Best to Parkwood Boulevard. Saunders agreed that both appeared to be the SUV he had purchased.
Prosecutors had traced through testimony a gun stolen from a home in the North Country to Saunders through friends. Saunders admitted to receiving a gun in the manner witnesses described.
Tremante-Pelham also questioned how Saunders couldn’t have seen “RIP Wayne Best” when Saunders’ friends had posted about it. Saunders said he didn’t go on Facebook much.
Closing arguments are set for Tuesday morning. Jury deliberations are expected to begin by the afternoon.