Shipanga says she approached Robinson, who was lying on his stomach in the doorway. “There was a lot of blood.” Robinson was still alive. The officer asked him if he knew who shot him. “He said, ‘I don’t know who shot me, I just need a medic.’ I step past him and step into the house. I see another person down. I touched his arm and he’s not responsive.” It was Nasir.
“There were shell casings all over the place. Holes in the wall,” remembers Shipanga. “[Robinson] was screaming, ‘I’m dying, I need medics!’ He just kept saying it. He was screaming it.”
Blood patterns suggest that Robinson was still lying on the couch when he was first hit then tried to escape out the front door where he collapsed. Nasir was gunned down a few feet from the door.
Someone in the courtroom gasps as an image of the murder scene is projected onto the wall. The bloody front door is in the center of the photograph. To the right of the door is a white couch that looks like it was splashed with buckets of blood. More blood is slashed across the pink carpet.
Despite the bloodbath, the house is tidy and filled with clues of a carefully maintained home. Flowers burst out of glass vases; the kitchen window is adorned with cheerful curtains, white with large red roses.
In a bedroom upstairs, there’s a large plastic storage container with a gun—a .22-caliber Winchester rifle—an assortment of ammunition and crack cocaine.
Small yellow placards the size of index cards mark evidence. The placards are everywhere, on the couch, the floor, up the stairs, over the mantelpiece. Numbers indicate shell casings; letters mean fluids. To the left of the door, the body of Nasir Hinton lies half curled up.
Women sitting with Nasir’s mother squeeze hands. Butts, wearing a crucifix necklace, sometimes shakes her head. Had her son lived, he would be the age of Campfield at the time of the murders.
According to his testimony—and the trail of bullet holes—Tolbert escaped by running up the stairs and climbing through a window. By the time police arrive, he was standing with Butts down the street. He was arrested for the murder of Marty Cool about a month later. When Tolbert decided to talk about the events of June 16, detectives were able to begin stringing together the friendships, guns and spiraling acts of revenge that led to the Malvern Street murders.
‘Dancing with the devil’
ADA Fairman concedes that the most incriminating evidence against Campfield comes from “corrupt” or “polluted” sources. She says that though the District Attorney’s Office doesn’t like to do it, they had to cut deals with Tolbert and Alverest, two self-confessed murderers, in order to get justice for Nasir. She calls such deals ‘dancing with the devil.’
Campfield’s defense, courtesy of court-appointed private attorney Thomas McGill, focuses on making sure the jury knows that much of the testimony incriminating his client is coming from these corrupt sources, career criminals who even the prosecution calls “soulless men.” McGill’s strategy is to try to cast as large a shadow of reasonable doubt as possible by holding the bulk of that testimony up to the sun.
Echoing an ancient gang code of letting the youngest in a group take the heat since they’ll get a lighter sentence, McGill casts Campfield, now 22, as the “pawn” of his older friends.
The lawyer uses the slang that enables everyday murders to go unresolved, characterizing Alverest and Tolbert as “rats caught in a trap, squealing because they see that as the only way to get out of what they’ve done.”
Tolbert admits to lying to police when questioned following the shoot-out.
“I was scared for me and my family,” he says. “[Scared] to come to jail and of people on the street. Friends.”
Though Tolbert is no longer facing the death penalty thanks to his deal with the D.A., he says that’s not why he finally cooperated with detectives. “I changed the way I am thinking. I’m not that person anymore.”
He says he’s telling the truth for Hollie Butts and her family, because he loves them.
As for Alverest’s deal, his charges were reduced to third-degree murder and the death penalty is off the table. His max is now 25 to 50 years, plus whatever he gets from the feds on gun charges.
Alverest takes the stand. He has a handsome face with what looks like an Ash Wednesday smudge on his forehead. Twenty-four years old at the time of the incident, he’s balding now. You can see a hint of the old man he will be when he gets out of prison, if he makes it.
First Person Arts Podcast: Proud Mom