CLEARWATER — Three years ago, Laron Raiford and two accomplices hatched a plan to lure 22-year-old Shannon Griffin to a dark alley in St. Petersburg by promising to sell him $60 worth of marijuana.
The plan was to rob him.
What they didn't expect was any resistance from Griffin, and in a struggle Griffin was fatally shot four times in the chest, a prosecutor said.
“They did not plan that Mr. Shannon Griffin would fight back,” Assistant State Attorney Christopher LaBruzzo told jurors during opening statements in Raiford's murder trial today.
Raiford's is the first of three suspects charged in Griffin's Oct. 23, 2010, death to stand trial. One of his co-defendants has attracted considerable media attention.
In 2007, 19-year-old Jennifer Mee became known to millions as “Hiccup Girl” for her inability to stop hiccupping for five weeks. when she was 19. She and her boyfriend, Lamont Newton, are being tried separately at future dates.
Mee met Griffin online on a social networking site called MocoSpace, then lured him to an alley at 511 Seventh St. N., witnesses have told police. The plan was for Raiford, then 20, and Newton, then 22, to rob him.
After the shooting, the pair accidentally left their gun behind, and Raiford's DNA was found on the weapon, as well as on shell casings in the .38-caliber revolver, LaBruzzo said. Two of the shell casings retrieved from inside Griffin's body were matched to the gun, he said.
Raiford also left behind his shoes, black Jordan slides, according to a police report.
Investigators tracked Raiford to an apartment on 89th Avenue North, where they found, hidden in a ceiling vent, the contents of Griffin's wallet, LaBruzzo said today.
The prosecutor also told jurors they could expect to hear Raiford's taped statement to investigators. According to a police report, Raiford laid out the details to the plan, its execution, and its aftermath.
“Raiford stated they didn't have any marijuana to sell,” according to a police report. “This was just what they said to get the guy to come meet them, so they could rob him.”
Raiford's attorney, Edward Liebling, had tried unsuccessfully to get Raiford's statements thrown out as evidence.
In court on Tuesday and Wednesday, he revisited his arguments, saying his client was essentially mentally retarded and easily manipulated. That meant the investigators who took his statements weren't qualified to speak with him, Liebling said.
Liebling opted not to give opening remarks Wednesday.