January 24, 2008 in City

Accused killer says he never fired the gun

By The Spokesman-Review

Accused murderer Norman “Griz” Ford Jr. told a federal jury Wednesday he kicked in the door at Gary Flett Jr.’s home but did not fire a 9mm handgun that fatally wounded him on the Spokane Indian Reservation in 2006.

The 31-year-old Wellpinit man testified in his own defense on the seventh day of his U.S. District Court trial on charges of first-degree murder, first-degree burglary and use of a firearm during a crime of violence.

The case is expected to go to a jury late today or Friday.

The case against Ford is built largely around the testimony of Joey Jake Moses, who pleaded guilty to murder and implicated Ford in the crime as part of a plea bargain to avoid serving life in prison. Moses, 24, testified last week that he fired the initial shots at Flett before giving the gun to Ford, who fired additional rounds at the 20-year-old victim.

That prosecution scenario was discounted Wednesday by defense witness Kay Sweeney, a firearms and blood-splatter expert and former manager of the Washington State Patrol’s Crime Laboratory.

Sweeney told the jury that it was “most probable” that the nine shots fired at Flett were all fired by a single individual, likely in less than 10 seconds, based on physical evidence, a witness statement and crime-scene photographs.

“It’s just not likely for someone to fire then transfer (the gun) to someone else to fire,” the forensic expert said.

Ford then took the stand, testifying that during a night of drinking, he became enraged when Moses repeatedly suggested Ford’s fiancée was having an ongoing sexual relationship with Flett and that he was the biological father of her new son.

“How did that make you feel?” defense attorney Mark Vovos asked the defendant.

“It hurt,” Ford told the jury. “I felt betrayed. I didn’t know what to think at the time.”

He encountered Moses and other mutual friends at a boxing match at Northern Quest Casino on the evening of May 31, 2006, before Moses, Ford and three other men stopped at a Spokane bar before driving back to the reservation.

There, they went to Moses’ home and continued drinking for another half-hour before he called his girlfriend, Naomi Stearns, to ask her about the rumors that she was having an affair with Flett, Ford testified.

“I asked her if my son was my son,” the defendant testified, recalling that Stearns told him the rumors were baseless and that he was drunk and not making sense.

At that point, Ford testified, he intended to go to his brother’s nearby home, but Moses “kept ragging on me” about the rumored relationship as they drove down a reservation road.

“He asked me, ‘Are you just going to let him mess around with your girl?’ ” Ford said. He told the jury he knew Moses was afraid of Flett and thought Moses “was trying to get me to fight his battle.”

After briefly stopping at his brother’s home, he jumped back in the truck and he and Moses drove to Flett’s house in the Kokanee Meadows housing development on the reservation in the early morning hours of June 1.

“I jumped out of the vehicle, kicked in the door,” Ford testified, adding that he awoke Flett, who was asleep on a living room sofa.

Ford said he only intended to confront Flett about the sexual relationship rumors.

But as he and Flett exchanged words for 30 to 45 seconds, Moses ran in the home wearing a bandana over his face and fired a handgun over Ford’s shoulder, the defendant told the jury.

“The next you know there’s this ‘boom,’ ” he testified, recalling that he ran from the home as Flett fell to the floor, wounded.

“I never knew Joey Moses had a gun,” Ford later testified. “I never knew he was going to do what he done.”

Ford said he was having trouble getting the truck in gear as Moses jumped in, using profanity-laced phrases to brag that he’d killed Flett, who had humiliated and threatened Moses for months.

Not knowing what to do, Ford said he and Moses drove back to Spokane in the pre-dawn hours of June 1 before Moses threw two bullet magazines over a hillside on Northwest Boulevard. Ford said he walked away to his North Side home with the handgun as Moses drove off, ditching the truck before catching a bus to California.

Ford testified he threw the handgun in the Spokane River, hours after the shooting and later that day told his fiancée about the shooting. He also spoke with his parents who live on the reservation before calling a Bureau of Indian Affairs agent.

Ford said he knew he had made “the biggest mistake of my life,” but realized he had to provide details to authorities, hoping not to incriminate himself. Ford said he later met with FBI agents, without an attorney, and waived his rights before answering questions.

Under cross-examination by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jared Kimball, Ford admitted he had lied about some details and withheld other pertinent information from federal investigators.

Initially, Ford testified, he only implicated Moses in the shooting and didn’t tell the BIA agent all the details, including the fact that he had kicked in the door at Flett’s home.

Ford was arrested in July 2006 on a charge of being an accessory to murder after being summoned to the FBI office to review previous statements, he testified.

He was charged with first-degree murder last March, two months after Moses had struck his plea agreement, promising to testify.

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