Witness: Clark shot Exum

Published 8:48 am Wednesday, January 24, 2007

By By MICHAEL C. GUILMETTE JR. / Niles Daily Star
NILES – Witnesses described a chaotic scene Tuesday as they recounted the shooting death of Renell Exum on Aug. 20 of last year.
The trial of Louis Lee Clark, 29, who is accused in the shooting, began Monday in Niles, and stems from an altercation between Exum and Clark, both of South Bend, Ind., in the parking lot of the Oak Dairy Party Store on State Line Road in Niles Township.
Witnesses Rose Middleton and her son, Kinness Shorter, both testified they were in a Durango in the parking lot, having stopped at the party store with other family friends to purchase ice cream. According to Middleton, she was acquainted with Exum, and he had stopped by the vehicle to speak with her.
Afterwards, Middleton said Clark and as many as three others approached Exum and allegedly offered to purchase his necklace. She then said Clark pulled his shirt back, revealing a handgun on his waist. At this point, Middleton said she and her son ran to safety behind the store.
Under questioning by defense attorney Tat Parish, Middleton said she did not see the shooting itself, also admitting Clark never actually had the gun in his hand, although she said Clark "brushed" the handle.
Shorter, testifying after his mother, said he saw Clark shoot Exum during the fight. Shorter said he was sitting in a passenger-side seat behind Middleton, but said he could not hear what the two were arguing about.
Shorter said Clark and Exum were fighting near the front of the vehicle, at one point slamming into the side of the SUV.
On cross-examination, Parish presented a series of slides from security camera footage of the parking lot, showing the fight indeed beginning near the vehicle's front, but the two individuals moved towards the back of the Durango during a period of several seconds.
Shorter said he and his mother had fled the vehicle by the time the fight moved, but he added he looked back and saw the gun fire.
Parish's questioning as to why Shorter said he saw the fight towards the front of the car when the footage showed the two at the back drew an objection from Berrien County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Jeff Rhoa, saying the witness had already testified he was out of the vehicle by the time the fight moved and therefore could not testify to the move.
Parish also attempted to question Shorter about the wound Exum received, asking him if he was aware of the bullet's trajectory through Exum's body, but Rhoa objected to this question as well, saying this forensic information had not been submitted as evidence. The judge agreed with both objections.
Shorter's testimony ended the proceedings for the day, but he was called to return to testify this morning. Rhoa also said he intends to call as many as 15 more witnesses during the rest of the trial.
Clark is on trial for second degree open murder and felony firearm charges for the shooting.