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Man blames wife’s slay on drug buy

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A Hollis man on trial in his wife’s murder testified Monday that another man shot her amid a drug deal gone bad, but the prosecution painted a portrait of a husband who threatened his wife weeks before she was killed.

Billy Cooper, 30, told a jury in State Supreme Court in Kew Gardens Monday that he was forced to leave Kimberly John for dead in the parking lot of her apartment complex for fear the shooter would kill him, too.

Cooper is charged in the shooting death of his 22-year-old wife a month after the couple were married. John was shot between two and four times as she was getting out of her car in the parking lot of her cooperative building at Francis Lewis Boulevard and 204th Street on March 14, 2001.

Cooper testified that John was acting as a courier to transport drugs and money between a dealer in the 40 Housing Project and two men, according to his lawyer, Stephen Murphy. Cooper identified the two men he was with that night as Frederick Hamlet and Lenwood “Smoke” Evans, the lawyer said.

“He said it was a drug thing,” Murphy said. “He said he gave her money that Fred and Smoke owed their dealer.”

When John, who had already kicked Cooper out of her co-op apartment, met the men without the money or the drugs, Evans allegedly shot John several times as Cooper waited in a van, Cooper said.

“I didn’t actually see it,” Cooper said.

“I said to him, ‘I know you didn’t just shoot my wife.’ He said ‘She didn’t have the money and she didn’t have the coke,’” he said, describing his conversation with Evans after the shooting.

Evans, of Springfield Gardens, was expected to go on trial for his suspected role in the shooting after Cooper’s case was decided.

Hamlet pleaded guilty in July to tampering with evidence in the case and was awaiting sentencing.

Assistant District Attorney Jack Warsawsky asked Cooper on cross-examination to reconcile his testimony with written confessions he signed during a police interrogations in the days following the shooting. Cooper said the detectives did not give him a chance to read his statement and added information after it was signed.

Warsawsky also asked Cooper if he had threatened John before they broke up.

“Two weeks before the homicide, isn’t it true that you threatened your wife with a silver handgun?” he asked. “A month before the homicide isn’t it true you threatened to kill your wife if she left you?”

But Cooper denied it, saying he and John “broke up and got back together 100 times.”

John’s mother, who watched the testimony in the courtroom, was outraged by Cooper’s testimony linking John to the drugs.

“It’s lies,” she said. “My daughter was never involved with drugs.”

Closing arguments were presented Tuesday afternoon and the case was slated to go to the jury Wednesday.

Reach reporter Courtney Dentch by e-mail at news@timesledger.com, or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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