TAMPA — The mother of Tavari Grant testified in the trial of her son’s codefendant Thursday that she saw the two together within hours of when two South Tampa teen siblings were killed and robbed.
Charles Waits, who is standing trial in the killings of Kiara Brito, 16, and her brother, Jeremi, 13, claims he was coerced at gunpoint to participate in the robbery. Lawyers say he told investigators that on the morning of June 5, 2011, a man named Rocco asked him to be taken to Kiara to buy marijuana.
Waits told detectives Rocco pointed a gun at him and robbed the teens, but that he managed to run out of the house before both teens were shot in the head.
The prosecution says evidence proves Rocco was actually Tavari Grant, Waits’ good friend, and that Grant wasn’t forcing Waits to participate against his will.
Both sides told Circuit Judge Emmett Lamar Battles Wednesday that they expected Grant’s mother, April Grant, to be hostile to both the prosecution and defense. At the urging of the lawyers, Battles spoke briefly to Grant before her testimony and outside the presence of jurors.
“Your obligation is to tell the truth,” the judge told her, adding that perjury carries consequences. “Answer questions directly without commentary.”
Another of Grant’s sons, Denzel Baker, is in the Hillsborough County Jail for contempt after refusing to testify at a deposition related to this case.
Grant remained composed and didn’t exhibit any outward hostility while she was being questioned Thursday. She said she had only a vague memory of what happened that morning but had listened to a recording of an interview she gave to detectives a few days later.
Grant said Waits is friends with “my entire family.” Sometime between 7 and 9 a.m. the day of the killings, she said, Waits came over and asked for Tavari and went to Tavari’s bedroom.
The Brito siblings were killed between 5 and 6 a.m., according to evidence in the trial.
Grant said Tavari had a car back then, but it didn’t have a license tag. She said she told detectives Waits “had a car and would be bullied by friends to drive them around.”