CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A local murder trial was delayed this week after prosecutors said a key witness in the case disappeared.
They’re blaming witness intimidation for putting justice in jeopardy.
In December of 2015, firefighters in the town of Ranlo responded to a car fire and found a body in the trunk.
Police said 34-year-old Norris Martin had been killed in Charlotte and stuffed in the trunk.
There was only one witness to the murder.
According to prosecutors, the witness told police that after the murder he was bound with tape, held at gunpoint and taken to a wooded residential street, where he was shot multiple times but survived.
Two of the defendants, James Evans and Marquez Springs-Owens, are set to go to trial.
Prosecutors said the witness will be a crucial witness in the case, but they can’t find him.
They believe a flyer that surfaced several weeks ago online and at a convenience store is to blame for his disappearance.
It identifies the witness as a heroin dealer who is working with federal officials. It also highlights a statement saying he would testify at the trial.
“The system doesn't work if people with an interest in the case can intimidate a witness and keep them off the stand,” former prosecutor Tony Scheer told Channel 9.
Scheer said this case of witness intimidation goes beyond what he's seen.
Police are taking it seriously too.
Editor’s Note: Due to the sensitivity of this case, we are not naming the witness or the women charged with intimidation.
They used surveillance cameras at the store to identify a woman as the one who posted the flyer there.
She told them she is Marquez Springs-Owens' cousin and was dating James Evans.
Police have charged her and a second woman with intimidating a witness.
Channel 9 tried to find both of them on Wednesday, but the addresses they gave deputies don't appear to be accurate.
A judge has put the trial on hold while prosecutors look for their star witness.
Tony Scheer said the threats could backfire on those defendants.
“The state will do what it takes to get that witness on the stand, and the jury may very well find out about the efforts to keep him off the stand,” Scheer said. “It just makes defendants look more guilty.”
Cox Media Group