BESSEMER, AL (WBRC) - A jury has acquitted the first of four teenagers to stand trial on murder charges in the slaying of a veteran and father of two.
Jurors returned the verdict in favor of 17-year-old Charleston Wells on Friday after three days of deliberations. He was convicted of several counts of breaking into vehicles, however.
Wells' bond was revoked until his sentencing hearing for the breaking and entering of vehicles conviction.
Wells and three others youths were arrested in the gunshot killing of Iraq War veteran Mike Gilotti on January 5, 2016. Gilotti was shot to death as he was leaving his suburban home for a trip to the gym. Police say the 33-year-old Gilotti was killed after he encountered someone asking him for directions.
Wells took the stand to blame the killing on his co-defendants. Wells' attorneys, Charles Salvagio and Tom Mesereau, urged the jury to follow the evidence.
"You have forensic evidence [Darrian] Bryant and [Ahmad] Johnson were holding those guns and no evidence tying Wells to the guns," Mesereau said, referencing Wells' co-defendants in the case.
Monday, Wells blamed them for the shooting, saying the two intended to rob Gilotti who was walking out of his Lake Cyrus home before his 5 a.m. workout when he was shot in the back in his driveway.
He said he, Johnson, and Bryant were in a stolen pickup truck "checking cars" to steal items. They arrived at the Hoover neighborhood after stealing the truck in a Tuscaloosa neighborhood.
"He got in the car and wanted no part of it [hold up of Mike Gilotti]," Salvagio told the courtroom.
Assistant District Attorney Lane Tolbert said Wells' testimony "made no sense."
"You get to weigh his words," he said. "That man looked at you and lied."
During the trial, Mike Gilotti's wife Heather provided an account of what she heard and found that morning.
After leaving for his workout, Mrs. Gilotti heard a noise she described as a "crack," then heard her husband shouting for her outside, saying he had been shot.
When she opened the door, she said the Iraq War tank commander was bent over, gasping for air.
Gilotti said her husband fell onto her and landed on his face.
She said his last words were "God forgive me for my sins."
"You're OK," Mrs. Gilotti said. "It's a clean shot, you're going to be OK."
She tried to perform CPR and described hearing a "gurgling" sound from her husband.
Gilotti also recalled telling her 5-year-old son, who was calling for his dad in the hallway of their house, to go away.