Shooting trial begins

The trial of a 23-year-old Woodbridge man accused of shooting his roommate in October 2001 began Monday morning.

Travis Sentell Massenburg, of 12844 Cara Drive, pleaded not guilty to murder and use of a firearm.

Both the defense and the prosecution agree that Massenburg shot his former roommate, Charles Edward Robinson Jr., 39. The day Robinson died, the two were arguing over money while Robinson was being evicted from the Cara Drive townhouse.

“A gun is handed to Travis. Travis did fire that weapon at least four times,” defense attorney Michael Morchower said. “Travis was frightened, he feared for his safety. The circumstances were very stressful and dangerous to Travis, as he saw it.”

“Charles Robinson’s life was snuffed out for this man’s ego,” Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney W. Michael Phipps said. “Charles and Travis had an ongoing dispute over money: who owed what [to whom].”

Robinson owed Massenburg $60. Robinson claimed Massenburg owed him money for utilities and phone bills on the townhouse.

Witnesses Monday testified that they heard four or six shots fired the night of Oct. 2, 2001.

Robinson’s friend Brad Caulding, who lived down the street and was taking in Robinson’s belongings, was rolling a chair towards his house when he heard the gunfire. He ran to his friend, who was lying on the ground.

“[Robinson] looked me in my face as he was coughing blood and told me ‘Travis shot me,'” Caulding said.

Medical examiner Dr. Carolyn Revercomb said that Robinson died from two gunshot wounds to the back. An additional bullet passed through Robinson’s lip; a fourth bullet struck him in the thigh.

“Travis ran up to Charles. [Robinson] turned around with his fists up, and Travis shot him four times,” said Daryl Eugene Searcy, 23, a friend of Massenburg’s who witnessed the shooting. “He was right over him [when he shot again].”

Searcy, who admitted giving Massenburg the gun used to shoot Robinson, is charged as an accessory to the murder. He faces a non-jury trial Feb. 20.

Searcy and other witnesses described a fight between Robinson and Massenburg before the shooting. Massenburg swung at Robinson but missed. Robinson knocked Massenburg to the ground. Massenburg’s friends then began baiting him to fight Robinson for the money Robinson owed Massenburg.

Searcy said that after the fist fight, Massenburg asked him for the gun, and he gave it to him. Massenburg then chased Robinson, who was walking towards Caulding’s house. Searcy and other witnesses said that Massenburg shot Robinson, then shot him again as Robinson lay on the ground.

“Travis and one friend were running away. The other one was going through Chuck’s pockets,” said Wendy Rothenbecker, Robinson’s girlfriend.

After hearing the Commonwealth’s witnesses, Morchower said they had not proved that Robinson’s killing was premeditated. Morchower argued Massenburg shouldn’t be charged with first-degree murder. Judge Richard B. Potter denied the motion.

Today the trial will continue with testimony from several more defense witnesses. Closing arguments may be heard before the jury is released to deliberate.

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