Video Footage, Eye Witness Testimony Plays Key Role in Murder Case

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During a preliminary hearing Aug. 14, a DC Superior judge denied a murder defendant’s release after finding probable cause.

Travis Russell, 35, is charged with first-degree murder while armed for allegedly stabbing Michael Hooker, 44, on the 2700 block of Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, SE on May 26.

Judge Craig Iscoe ruled that the prosecution had probable cause based on footage that allegedly shows the defendant leaving the crime scene as well as witnesses descriptions of the murderer.

Apparently, an eyewitness, who saw the murder, told a Metropolitan Police Department detective that Russell, who was known to stay in a shelter in the area, was near the crime scene at the time of the murder.

During the hearing, the detective said he never entered the shelter because he didn’t have an arrest warrant for Russell. He also said he did not arrest Russell, at the time, because he did not have probable cause to believe he was a suspect.

The detective said he only went to the shelter because a witness gave a description of a man with dreadlocks in a black shirt that stayed at the shelter.

However, defense counsel, Mani Golzari, said the two witnesses who said they saw the murder, did not give two different descriptions of a man police believed was Russell.

Both of the witnesses said the murderer was wearing a white t-shirt moments before the murder took place.

Surveillance footage from two cameras also show Russell, on the day of the murder wearing a white t-shirt headed to the shelter.

Those same cameras then show someone, who is suspected to be Russell, walking from the shelter in the direction of the crime scene wearing a black shirt. He can then be seen again running away from the scene in the same shirt.

Golzari said there was no probable cause that Russell committed the murder because of the different descriptions.

Golzari also said the defendant’s DNA and fingerprints were not found on the crime scene.

The prosecution said Russell could be placed at the scene of the crime by surveillance footage, which allegedly shows him walking in the direction of the crime scene. Then, moments later, he can be seen on the same camera walking back in the direction of the shelter.

The prosecution said the witnesses gave conflicting descriptions because Russell changed clothes before committing the murder.

The alleged murder weapon was not found.

Russell is being held without bail.

A felony status conference is scheduled on Nov. 22. 



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