The little check-kiting scheme Kerry Ray Burns created with a couple of young Arden Arcade hustlers two years ago could not have worked out worse for all of them.
Burns, 27, wound up shot to death. One of his fellow schemers is charged with murder in the killing. The other, since imprisoned on an unrelated robbery, is being accused by the defense of actually doing the killing.
Details of their failed bank scam and how it led to Burns’ homicide were laid out Tuesday in front of a jury in the Sacramento Superior Court trial of Victor Bernard Rodgers, 21.
Deputy District Attorney Thomas Asker told the jury in his opening statement how violence came back on Burns when he failed to take care of his two partners in the check-kiting crew.
“They got nothing,” Asker said. “Kerry kept all the money for himself, so there was some animosity there.”
The prosecutor did not discuss how the fraud operation worked. But in a typical check-kiting con, the player or players open accounts in two different banks. The next move is to write a check off one account and deposit it into the other, before writing a check off the second to cover the first – and somehow find a way to cash out before anybody gets caught.
Officials did not say how much money the small-time operation netted, only that it fell apart fairly quickly. The banks launched an investigation, according to the District Attorney’s Office trial brief, and the probe led examiners to the names on the two accounts – those of Victor Rodgers and the third figure in the scheme, Cerwilliam Dijonpierr Pryor, who is now 23.
Shortly after 8 p.m. May 22, 2012, Burns and his wife drove to his mother’s house on the 2100 block of Wyda Way. While he stood outside a few minutes later in front of the duplex, somebody came up and shot him twice, once in the chest and once in the buttocks.
Sheila Burns said she was standing near the front door and could see her husband when she heard three or four gunshots.
“I (saw) him duck down,” Burns testified Tuesday. “I thought he dodged the bullets.”
Mrs. Burns ran outside and looked to her left and saw her husband – the father of their five children – lying on the grass of a neighbor’s duplex two doors down, toward Howe Avenue.
“His eyes were open,” Sheila Burns said. “He looked at me. He couldn’t speak.” She said she put her hand on her husband’s neck but that before sheriff’s deputies arrived on the 911 call, “his pulse left.”
A video surveillance camera mounted on a nearby apartment building helped detectives break the case rather quickly.
It caught a group of teenagers who scattered from a street corner at the time of the shooting. Investigators obtained identifications on a couple of them, and those two identified a third. One told investigators the third teenager spoke on a cellphone right before the shooting and said to whoever was on the other end of the line, “KB’s here,” according to Asker’s opening statement.
The youngster on the phone turned out to be Tymon “Malik” Rodgers, the younger brother of the defendant. Prosecutors initially charged Malik Rodgers with murder, but offered him a plea bargain.
On Feb. 27, 2013, Malik Rodgers accepted it. He pleaded no contest to being an accessory to the killing. Under the deal, Malik Rodgers agreed to be sentenced to time served, plus probation. He still has not been officially sentenced. He’s out of custody now, but on Tuesday he had to painfully deliver on his end of the deal.
Malik Rodgers’ tough go on the witness stand began when his eyes locked on to those of his brother.
Both brothers wept openly, Malik, who is now 19, identified Victor as the man in the white shirt and tie seated at the defense table.
“He’s the only one I know,” Malik testified, his voice breaking and his eyes dripping moisture that needed a tissue to stop.
Malik grew surly at times as Asker questioned him. There was a pause several moments long as the courtroom fell pin-drop quiet when Asker asked him if it was true he phoned Victor just moments before the shooting.
“Yeah,” Malik finally replied, a grimace covering his face.
He also testified his brother returned to their apartment a couple days after the shooting and told him some details about it.
Authorities arrested Victor Rodgers nine days after the killing in Las Vegas, where he ultimately confessed, according to Asker.
In his opening statement, defense attorney Michael Long said his client “is not the person who shot Kerry Burns.” Long said Malik Rodgers lied about calling his older brother and that Victor Rodgers falsely confessed to take the heat off his younger brother.
Long told the jury it was Pryor who shot and killed Burns, who, according to the evidence, did pay an angry visit to the Wyda Way home of the victim’s mother two days before the shooting.
The trial will continue Wednesday in front of Judge Robert M. Twiss.