The mother and a friend of slain Lufkin woman testified Thursday as prosecutors wrapped up their murder case against Andre Woods.
Woods, 23, is the suspect in the May 18, 2018, shooting death of Ashleigh Elijah.
Witness Miesha McKnight told Lufkin Police officers that Woods shot Elijah before fleeing into the woods. He was arrested hours later by police. He is being represented by attorneys John Reeves and Carter Meyers.
Assistant District Attorneys Ken Dies and Sandra Martin called McKnight and Ashleigh’s mother, Kenyotta Elijah, to testify Thursday in state District Judge Paul White’s courtroom.
During Kenyotta’s tearful testimony, she spoke about her daughter’s upbringing and personal life. Ashleigh was the mother of a daughter, and had lived away from her mother for almost six years at the time of her death.
“I spent so much time trying to protect her,” she said.
Kenyotta referred to her daughter as a “paper tiger” and said she was all bark and no bite. She said Ashleigh could get upset, but would never lash out or fight. Witnesses in previous testimony made reference to an argument in which Ashleigh wanted to confront Woods with a bat the day before the shooting.
“The most you could expect Ashleigh to do was go in her room and stay for hour,” Kenyotta said. “She wasn’t the kid who’d fight, the only one I remembered was kindergarten. She came home and cried, she was so afraid of being in trouble.”
Kenyotta also said she disapproved some of the people her daughter was hanging around before her death, and had hoped that Ashleigh would return home to her at some point.
“I see the people and said, ‘these are not good people she’s hanging around,” and I kept waiting because I knew she’d come back,” Kenyotta said.
McKnight described her relationship with Ashleigh ‘‘as inseparable,’’ saying they were best friends and were like sisters.
Prosecutors used her testimony to set the scene for the jury, starting with the rising tension levels the day before the slaying. That included the bat incident, which McKnight said Woods laughed off.
The day of the shooting, McKnight recalled Woods had gotten upset at Ashleigh after she slammed his mother’s screen door. Additionally, she said Woods told others that McKnight’s unborn child was his own, and that he and Ashleigh were still in a relationship. She said neither of those statements were true.
Just before the shooting, McKnight said she heard Woods state he would do it, then watched as he chased Ashleigh and shot her once in the hip. McKnight said she hadn’t fallen to the ground yet as Woods continued to chase her around a vehicle before Ashleigh stopped and pleaded with him not to shoot. She said that’s when he shot her again in the head.
Prosecutors played surveillance footage from a neighbor’s home on the street that captured parts of the incident, which McKnight spoke about.
McKnight described Woods as looking surprised after the shooting. She said her mother, Shirley Ray, confronted Woods before he ran into the woods.
She also testified that Ashleigh’s boyfriend pulled her aside and asked how to leave immediately after the shooting.
Lufkin Detective Jamie Jinkins and Angelina County Sheriff’s Office corrections officer Nick Gardner took the stand next. Jinkins went over the initial investigation and response to the shooting before the jail calls were played. He said Ashleigh’s boyfriend ‘‘lied and put off working with investigators.’’
In one call, Jinkins identified Woods as one of the voices that states he didn’t shoot McKnight because she was pregnant. In another call, Woods appears to boast about his accuracy when the subject of the shot that killed Ashleigh is brought up.