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What you need to know for 08/18/2017

Text messages outline weeks leading up to teen's killing

Text messages outline weeks leading up to teen's killing

Defendant allegedly used victim as a prostitute
Text messages outline weeks leading up to teen's killing
Raekwon Stover, right, with his attorney Adam Parisi in the Schenectady County Courthouse, June 7, 2017.
Photographer: Marc Schultz

In the weeks leading up to her death, Medina Knowles began to miss opportunities to make Raekwon Stover money, according to text messages entered at Stover's murder trial Friday in Schenectady County Court.

Months earlier, according to testimony, Stover had told another woman he'd settled on a new way to make money: pimping.

Prosecutors argued in their opening statements in Stovers' murder trial, Stover, 19, began prostituting the 17-year-old Knowles online.

When she stopped making him money, prosecutors claim, an angry Stover went to Knowles' 524 Schenectady St. apartment late on Sept. 15 and shot her in the head, killing her.

Stover worked through the website Backpage.com and Knowles, a mother of a young child, text messaged with potential clients about meetings. The messages covered how long the sessions would last -- quick, half hour or an hour -- and then they would meet, according to testimony from police investigators who examined cellphones linked to Knowles and Stover.

[Prosecutor: Schenectady teen's accused killer angry, armed]

"I never went," Knowles text messaged Stover Aug. 27 about a scheduled meeting. "My phone died. I'm at my sister's now."

Knowles missed other meetings, too, including the night she was killed, according to the testimony.

Another text message exchange read in court led to an apparent agreement to meet early on the evening of Sept. 15. The exchange abruptly ended and the meeting never happened, according to testimony and prosecutors.

Hours later, prosecutor Christina Tremante-Pelham argued in her openings, Stover killed Knowles because "her use to him was ending." Also prosecuting is Kyle Petit.

Stover is represented by attorney Adam Parisi. He declined to offer an opening statement this week. 

In the midst of the prostitution testimony Friday, Acting County Judge Louise Sira offered a statement to the jury noting that the prosecution is offering the testimony for motive and intent to murder. The defense disputes that Stover was involved in prostitution, Sira advised.

In a text message exchange after the Aug. 27 scheduled meeting, Knowles appeared to tell Stover that she would find a job. 

Investigators found that her phone browsing history indicated she visited help wanted sites.

On Sept. 14, the day before she was killed, her browsing history suggested she deleted an ad on the Backpage site. The phone linked to Stover also appeared to have access to the same Backpage account.

Also Friday, a former girlfriend of Stover, Antonia Garcia, testified to speaking with Stover earlier in the summer of 2016. Stover indicated he'd decided to start pimping. She advised against it.

She also previously saw Stover cleaning a gun, though she never saw him play with a gun.

Prosecutors are trying to discount an alternate description of the shooting Stover allegedly recounted to a friend, that he accidentally shot Knowles while cleaning his gun.

Tremante-Pelham argued that he had experience with guns and cleaning them. Witnesses also heard Knowles scream just before she was shot.

Garcia admitted to deleting photos of Stover and Knowles from Stover's email account at Stover's direction. Stover called Garcia from the jail after his arrest and the jail phone system recorded the conversation as it does all inmate calls.

Questioning from Parisi suggested the photos weren't relevant, confirming they existed long before Knowles was killed.

Dr. Michael Sikirica, the pathologist who performed the autopsy, offered testimony Friday morning that also appeared to discount the accidental gun-cleaning scenario.

Sikirica testified a shot from a gun-cleaning position was possible based on the evidence, but the position he described appeared awkward. The shot came from a revolver 1 to 2 feet from Knowles' head and from a gun pointed directly level to her head. 

He also found nothing that would suggest suicide. He ruled her death a homicide.

The trial continues Monday. If convicted on all counts against him, Stover would face in excess of 25 years to life in prison.

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