Mar. 29—In the moments before he was shot to death, Odessan Treginale White walked over to an acquaintance’s car to turn on her headlights after noticing she and her friends had been driving without them.
Tuesday was the second day in the murder trial of Rondale Gerrod Farris, a 41-year-old Odessa man accused of shooting White to death shortly after 2 a.m. July 13, 2018. Jurors gathered in the 161st Ector County District Court spent most of the day watching and re-watching video surveillance prosecutors Melissa Williams and Scott Turner believe proves their case against Farris, but they also heard from Claudia Perez, an acquaintance of the 41-year-old victim.
Perez testified she and two girlfriends spent a few hours at Club Tequila on Eighth Street and they ran into White, whom she had met a few times before, and his brother, Roderick. When the club closed, they decided to go to Jaguars Odessa.
Before heading to the adult entertainment club, Perez told jurors they decided to stop at a convenience store at Eighth Street and Highway 80 so her friends could use the restroom. When they arrived, they parked next to White’s Cadillac and her friends went inside while she stayed in the passenger seat of her Dodge Challenger, Perez said.
White came over to her car, turned on her headlights and went back to his car, she testified. Moments later, a man with an orange cup walked in front of her car and kept staring at her, prompting her to lock all of her doors, Perez said.
White got out of his car and asked the man if everything was OK, Perez said.
«He didn’t respond in a nice way and it turned into an argument,» Perez said.
After watching for a few minutes, Perez said she got out of her car and told White he should just get back into his car and he did. However, she saw the other man go to his car, which was parked behind hers, and then return.
She saw the man had a gun about the same time her friends were walking back to the car.
«I told them I saw a man with a gun and we needed to leave,» Perez said.
As they were getting ready to get onto 8th Street, Perez said she heard four or five shots and they turned around and came back.
«I saw Treginale on the floor,» Perez said.
Under cross-examination from defense attorney Jeff Nicholson, Perez testified she never saw Farris that night, either at the club or at the convenience store.
Jurors spent most of Tuesday hearing the testimony of Odessa Police Department Sgt. Justin Caid, who was a detective with the robbery/homicide division of the department at the time White died.
Caid told jurors he arrived on scene about an hour after the shooting and immediately recognized White’s vehicle because he was aware White was on parole after serving time for murdering a member of the Crips criminal street gang in 1996.
Prosecutors have told jurors Farris and another man charged in the case, Christopher George, are members of the Crips.
The sergeant testified he spoke with several witnesses the morning of the slaying and obtained two surveillance videos from cameras inside the store.
Jurors watched the two original videos, plus several copies of the videos that had been slowed down, lightened and otherwise enhanced.
The videos showed Perez’s friends in the store and Farris, as well. Moments after Perez’s friends leave the store, a man identified as Christopher George is seen approaching the door of the store and gesturing for someone inside the store to come out. He is then seen taking a step into the store and speaking to Farris. Farris then runs to the door, momentarily holding his right side before going outside and running to the left.
Store displays block Farris from view, but seconds later, four shots are heard, White can be seen dropping to the ground and Farris can be seen running away.
Roderick White is then seen running into the store yelling something about his brother before ripping off his shirt and running outside. Seconds later, he punches one of the store’s glass walls and a woman is heard screaming «Oh my God» repeatedly.
During questioning from Williams, Caid testified he believes Farris was holding a gun underneath his shirt. He also told jurors that based on the location of three of the four shell casings found at the scene and based on the bullet holes found in White’s car, it is clear White was shot in the head by Farris and not by anyone standing near the fuel pumps.
The fourth shell casing was found hours after the shooting by a transient who threw it into the trash and then called police, Caid said.
Nicholson tried to suggest that the fourth gunshot was fired from a different location than the other three, but Caid disagreed. The former detective said he thinks police personnel may have missed the .40 caliber gun shell because it was under White’s car or remained unseen in a puddle of blood.
OPD Sgt. Trent Autry testified the three shell casings were found roughly 25 feet from the store’s front door.
Caid told jurors George and Farris were identified after screenshots of the surveillance videos were shared with other law enforcement officers and the media. Clothing found at George’s home also matched those seen on the surveillance tapes.
Detectives traced both men using phone records and money transfers. George was arrested within days of the murder and Farris was arrested in Compton, Calif. about five months later.
Caid also testified an orange cup found at the scene and a necklace found inside White’s car were linked through DNA to relatives of Farris.
George, 38, is still awaiting trial.
The case is being presided over by visiting Judge Rodney Satterwhite.