ANDERSON — Christi Patterson was the first witness to testify against the man accused of taking her son’s life.
Dressed in black, Christi Patterson’s voice was calm and clear as she talked about the loss of her only son on Aug. 18, 2018. Bryce Patterson, 19, died from a single gunshot wound to the back of his head.
Christi Patterson said she remembered the exact minute she received a call from Bryce Patterson’s father saying their son had been shot.
It was 10:07 p.m.
She said she rushed from Pendleton to St. Vincent Anderson, but they would not let her see her son. He was flown by medical helicopter to St. Vincent in Indianapolis and she rushed to Indianapolis where she waited until his father arrived and they were told their son had died.
Patterson did not cry on the witness stand. It was only when she was handed a photo of her son to identify before it was shown to the jury that her testimony evoked emotions from those who attended the trial.
“That’s my baby boy Bryce,” she said, her voice lifting with pride and undeniable love.
Audible gasps were heard following her statement and several people in the gallery began to cry as they listened to her testimony.
Bryce Patterson died helping a high school friend who called him because of a flat tire. What the teenager didn’t know was the friend was in the middle of a drug deal that was about to go terribly wrong.
“That act of kindness would cost him his life,” said Chief Deputy Prosecutor Steve Koester during opening statements Tuesday in the murder trial of Michael D. Wayne Fleming III.
Koester said Patterson’s death is a classic example of how “no good deed goes unpunished.”
“The most innocent person in this whole deal – you will not hear from him,” Koester said.
Thomas G. Godfrey, Fleming’s defense attorney, said evidence will show the witnesses lied to police and there is “no evidence of intent or that they wanted to hurt Bryce Patterson.”
Fleming, 20, is charged with two counts of murder, Level 1 felony attempted murder and two counts of Level 2 felony robbery resulting in serious bodily injury.
His co-defendant, Orlando Sutton, 20, is charged with murder, Level 2 felony robbery resulting in serious bodily injury and Level 1 felony attempted murder. Sutton is being tried separately.
Koester said Sutton and Fleming arranged to meet Ryan Green under the premise of buying a quarter pound of marijuana for $550, but evidence will show the men never planned to pay for the drugs and instead were planning a “secret robbery.”
Throughout the proceedings the courtroom was packed with people.
Circuit Court Judge Andrew Hopper read a decorum order to those in attendance before the trial began saying electronic devices were not allowed in the courtroom and once the court session started only court personnel, counsel, support staff and witnesses would be allowed to enter. Those who left the courtroom during a session would only be allowed to return during a recess of the proceedings.
Hopper also told people to remain silent and not visibly react to the testimony or they would be asked to leave.
“The overall purposes of these rules and guidelines are to secure the accused’s constitutional right to a fair and impartial jury trial; to permit the public to exercise its First Amendment right of access to criminal proceedings; and, to protect jurors, witnesses, and parties from unnecessary commotion, confusion and/or influence,” he said reading from an order posted on the courtroom door.
Ryan Green testified after Bryce Patterson’s mother.
“He was one of my best friends,” Green said when asked how he knew Bryce Patterson. Green was the one who called Bryce Patterson asking for help with a flat tire.
Green explained how he was contacted by Sutton to buy marijuana from Green’s brother, Michael Kincade, and everyone planned to meet in Anderson for the exchange.
Koester told jurors the problem is Sutton and Fleming never planned to purchase the marijuana – they were going to rob Green and Kincade.
Christi Patterson sat quietly in the front row of the courtroom holding her boyfriend’s hand tightly during the testimony. Occasionally she wiped away the tears streaming down her face with a tissue.
Green testified that Bryce Patterson helped change his flat tire and then followed him back to a home on 12th Street where they had met Fleming and Sutton. Green was driving on a spare tire so Bryce Patterson drove to the home with Kincade, Kincade’s girlfriend, McKenzie Ford, and Bryce Patterson’s 16-year-old cousin in his car.
Fleming and Sutton got out of Green’s car, which was parked in front of Bryce Patterson’s car, and disappeared briefly between two houses. They returned to buy the marijuana from Kincade but they were armed and demanded “everything you got” from Kincade before firing into the car.
Green said he drove off in a panic when he heard the gunfire, but turned around at the first road to drive back and find out what happened. He said his brother was shot in the arm and he and his brother’s girlfriend got into the car and told him to drive to the hospital.
Jumping out of the car, Green said he went to check on Bryce Patterson, who was slumped over in the driver’s seat.
“I was freaking out,” he told jurors.
He said he pulled Bryce from the driver’s seat and tried to put him in the back seat of the car so he could drive him to the hospital. Kincade started to leave in Green’s car, but quickly returned and police arrived.
Tears ran down Green’s face as he testified.
Anderson police officers arrived and told Green to stop trying to move his friend and called for an ambulance instead.
Kincade and Ford also testified on Tuesday recounting similar stories to Green’s. All three admitted they did not tell police that Fleming and Sutton were buying marijuana at the time of the shooting and they lied or omitted information about the drug deal.
Jurors also heard testimony from the woman who lived at the home where Fleming and Sutton told Green to meet them. She did not know either one of them and was awakened the night of the shooting when she heard gunfire hit the house next door where her mother lived.
Fleming’s trial is scheduled to resume at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday in Madison Circuit Court 3.