An Akron woman says she feared for her life when she shot two men in January, killing one and wounding the other.
Hedy Moss testified Monday that Ernest Sherman, one of the men, pushed her against the wall, choked her and wouldn’t let her leave the room. She said she was afraid James McMullen, the other man, had a weapon he’d use on her.
“I thought I was going to die,” Moss said during testimony in which she broke down in tears. “My life was in danger.”
Moss, who is claiming self-defense, was the lone defense witness during her trial in the double shooting that left Sherman dead and McMullen with bullet wounds in his arm.
Moss’ trial in Summit County Common Pleas Judge Jay Wells’ court began last Wednesday and concluded Monday with Moss’ testimony and closing arguments. Jurors deliberated for about three hours Monday afternoon and will resume talks Tuesday morning.
Moss, 50, is charged with murder, attempted murder, felonious assault, tampering with evidence and having weapons under disability, which means she was prohibited from having a firearm because of a previous conviction.
Prosecutors say Moss went to the West Akron home Sherman and McMullen shared about 4 a.m. Jan. 16 to question them about a stolen pistol. They say when Sherman tried to leave the room, Moss shot him in the head and then turned the gun on McMullen, who jumped out of the second story window to escape but not before he also was shot.
During McMullen’s testimony, he denied there was any altercation before the shooting.
Prosecutors said Moss’ version of the story, which they heard for the first time when she took the witness stand, isn’t supported by McMullen’s testimony or by the physical evidence.
“Whatever was bothering the defendant that morning, nobody deserved to be shot in the head,” Assistant Prosecutor Teri Burnside said during her closing argument.
Moss admitted during her testimony to being guilty of having weapons under disability and tampering with evidence — she threw the gun she used in a sewer shortly before she was arrested. She didn’t however, concede to the other charges.
Moss said she’s been addicted to crack for 25 years and went to McMullen and Sherman’s home hoping to buy crack from McMullen, which she said she had done in the past. Moss said she smoked crack and marijuana and drank some alcohol before going to the men’s home.
Moss described the Gold Street home as a party house, where people often drank, did drugs and had sex. She said she saw a lot of fighting and knew there were machetes, knives and bats around the house, including a machete that McMullen kept on the side of his bed. She said when McMullen planned to get his machete out, he often said, “I got something for that!”
Moss said Sherman let her into the home and she went up to McMullen’s bedroom and told him she wanted to buy crack and had $18. She said both men were upset that she hadn’t brought something for them, like some drugs or a sandwich, which they expected when people came over.
Moss, who stood up to show the jury what happened, said she tried to leave and Sherman, who was by the closed door, pushed her back. She said she tried again and he blocked the door with his foot. She said Sherman pushed her again and then shoved her against the wall with his hand on her throat, making it difficult to breath.
Moss said she tried to kick Sherman in his private parts but missed. She said McMullen was on the other side of the room and said, “I got something for that!” She assumed this meant he was getting his machete or another weapon.
Moss said she grabbed the gun in her coat pocket and started shooting. As she was shooting, she said, she ran out of the door.
When Moss was arrested, she said, she didn’t tell police about the struggle because she didn’t think they would believe her. She said she waited and told her attorney. She insisted the shooting had nothing to do with a stolen gun.
Jeff Laybourne, who is representing Moss with attorney Erik Jones, asked Moss how she feels about shooting two men, especially given her renewed religious faith and sobriety since being in jail.
“I pray about it all the time,” she said. “I pray that Sherman has peace. I pray that his family finds peace. I pray that McMullen will forgive me.”
Assistant Prosecutor Brian Stano asked Moss if she cried out for help. She said it would have been difficult to call for help with Sherman pressing his hand against her throat.
Burnside, during her closing argument, pointed to evidence that she said doesn’t match Moss’ account. This included how a shell casing was found on the side of the bed by the window and how Sherman was found lying inside the bedroom door rather than behind the door where Moss claims they struggled.
Jones, however, said Moss’ account meshes with other testimony, including that of Ieasha Stoll, Sherman’s girlfriend who was in the room next door during the shooting. Stoll said she heard a tussle that sounded like someone might come through the wall and then three shots.
Jones urged jurors to take the pieces of evidence and hold them against each other like puzzle pieces to see what fits and what doesn’t.
“Hedy Moss defended herself as she’s entitled to under the law,” he said.
Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at 330-996-3750, email@example.com and on Twitter:@swarsmithabj.