ELYRIA — Khorey Banks told his attorney, Dan Wightman, he wasn’t nervous as he took the stand in his own defense in Lorain County Common Pleas Court on Monday.
Not even when Wightman asked Banks if he shot and killed his friend Steven Davis in an Oberlin apartment in November 2015 did Banks’ voice tremble or break.
“No, sir,” Banks replied.
Wightman and Lorain County prosecutors both rested their cases in Banks’ murder trial, with Banks the only witness to testify in his defense. Closing arguments in the weeklong criminal trial in Judge Chris Cook’s courtroom are scheduled to take place today.
Banks testified his mother was murdered when he was young and he was primarily raised by his grandmother. Now 25, the Elyria native graduated Elyria High School in 2012 and entered the military, serving in the U.S. Army National Guard for almost four years.
Banks testified he moved from South Carolina back to Ohio to be closer to his son and lived with his father in the Columbus area for one year before returning to Elyria. He testified he and the boy’s mother shared custody while Banks attended Lorain County Community College full-time with plans to become a teacher.
Banks also was into making short movies he would post on Instagram and YouTube to make money. The newest planned film starred Banks as someone trying to make it big in the music business.
In the script, Davis was supposed to portray a drug dealer who was “cocky,” “arrogant” and “flashy,” who eventually crosses the wrong people and is killed, Banks testified.
Banks said he knew Davis from high school, that the two mostly hung out and talked about Banks’ movies “and girls” and that Davis sometimes gave him marijuana for free. Davis didn’t smoke the drug himself, only sold it and “never brought any of that stuff around me,” Banks testified.
Davis’ cousin found him dead in the bed of his apartment on Locust Street in Oberlin on Nov. 24, 2015. He had been shot in the head and chest, and an autopsy showed he had been dead for approximately 36 hours.
Banks testified he did not recall what he was doing the day Davis was shot “but I did not link up with or hook up with Steven Davis.”
His car, a black 2008 Pontiac G5, developed engine trouble about that time, and Banks said he mostly was driving his sister-in-law’s truck and his brother-in-law’s SUV. Oberlin police found surveillance video showing a small, dark car consistent with Banks’ car turning onto and later leaving Locust Street the night of the murder.
Banks also testified that his ex-girlfriend, Latrelle Torrence, was upset that Banks tried to get back with his child’s mother about the same time. Torrence previously testified that Banks told her he shot and killed Davis, took apart and threw away the murder weapon and burned the clothes he wore that night.
Banks denied seeing Torrence that night or telling her he killed Davis. His and Torrence’s relationship was “off more than we were on,” Banks testified.
Wightman suggested during a cross-examination of Torrence that she was angry enough at Banks for their relationship ending to lie to police about his involvement in Davis’ death during an August 2016 interview.
During cross-examination by Assistant Lorain County Prosecutor Tony Cillo, Banks continued to deny any involvement in Davis’ death. He said he remembered the black Pontiac not working (“I was driving my sister’s car a lot”), though it shared characteristics of the vehicle spotted by Oberlin police.
Banks testified it was coincidence that he almost had daily contact with Davis in the days before his death, then none for two days before Davis’ body was discovered — despite the two planning to shoot Banks’ movie together.
“I know I did not see Steven Davis that weekend,” Banks told Cillo.
“Do you not remember where you were the night somebody died?” Cillo asked. “Is it just happenstance you never called Steven Davis again? He wasn’t found for at least 36 hours ... so it’s just a coincidence?”
“I wouldn’t say that,” Banks replied. “I just didn’t call him.”
Banks also said he couldn’t recall who he was buying his marijuana from in November 2015 and said Davis “would never charge me” for marijuana. He also denied owning a 9mm handgun like the murder weapon and said it was just a coincidence “I guess” that he bought a 9mm handgun in February 2016.
Prosecutors allege the handgun was a replacement for one Banks got rid of after the murder, which Banks also denied.
“I don’t recall exactly what I did that night but I know that I was not with Steven,” Banks told Cillo.
Banks was first interviewed Dec. 11, 2015, at the Elyria police station by Oberlin police detective Jessica Beyer and Elyria police detectives John Davidson and Don Moss. His replies to questions in a video of the interview were much the same as those he gave on the stand Monday.
It was “time-consuming” getting “thousands of pages” of records from Facebook and T-Mobile after police subpoenaed them as part of the case, Beyer testified. It wasn’t until January 2016 when police got their hands on the victim’s cell phone records, she said.
Those who had contact with Davis included several women with whom he was romantically involved, people who purchased marijuana from him and Banks, whom Davis told one of his romantic partners he was doing “business” with the day authorities allege he was killed.
Asked by Wightman if it wasn’t “just as likely someone else came and murdered Steven Davis” the night he died — such as someone who wanted to steal a shipment of marijuana he had just received from California or a person whose house Davis shot at after his apartment was burglarized — Beyer said it was not.
“It was Khorey Banks,” she testified.
Torrence provided detectives with information “no one would have known,” and a pizza delivery driver, calls and texts to Davis’ phone and the black car seen in Oberlin the night of Davis’ murder “tied that all together,” Beyer testified.
Outside the hearing of the jury, Cook denied several motions by Wightman to immediately acquit Banks, rejecting the argument that prosecutors failed to prove their case. He also refused to dismiss the aggravated murder charge, instead ruling the jury would be allowed to consider it during deliberations.
“All the charges are going to the jury,” Cook ruled.