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Posted on Thu, Apr 11, 2013 : 6:55 p.m.

Testimony: Man shot and killed after refusing to take $10K bribe to not testify

By Kyle Feldscher

Willie Wimberly offered Brandon Charles $10,000 to not testify against him in a Jan. 1 shooting and, when Charles asked for twice as much, Wimberly and Avantis Parker shot and killed him, according to testimony Thursday.

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Avantis Parker and Willie Wimberly

Wimberly, 30, and Parker, 21, are charged with killing 29-year-old Charles in the driveway of a home in the 600 block of Calder Avenue in Ypsilanti Township’s West Willow neighborhood on Jan. 29. On Thursday, testimony in a preliminary examination laid out the details of the dramatic case.

The key testimony came from Parker’s on-again-off-again girlfriend Sophie Peak. Peak, 18, said she was with Parker for most of Jan. 29, heard a conversation regarding the impending act and was in the car when Charles was shot.

Peak said she and Parker bought marijuana in Ypsilanti Township and smoked it, went to pick up a friend, drove to Taylor to pick up one of Parker’s brothers, bought Xanax in Belleville, ate at an Applebee’s and then went to a home in Inkster. It was at the home in Inkster where the plan to kill Charles was hatched, Peak said.

“I just heard him (Wimberly) say they needed to get Brandon before he testified the next day,” Peak said.

Wimberly and Steven Smith-Rush were charged with shooting Charles and his girlfriend during a Jan. 1 road rage incident in Detroit. Wimberly was scheduled to be in court for a preliminary exam on the morning on Jan. 30 and was free on a $250,000 bond.

Shots fired in West Willow

On Jan. 29, Peak said she could hear bits and pieces of a conversation between Parker, Wimberly and Terrence Parker — Avantis Parker’s half brother — in a bedroom at the Inkster home. She testified Avantis Parker previously told her Wimberly offered Charles $10,000 not to testify against him in the case, but he turned them down.

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Brandon Charles

Wimberly would offer the money to Charles one more time and, if he turned him down again, they would physically beat him up, Peak testified.

Peak said she got in the car with Wimberly and Terrence Parker while Avantis Parker drove the four of them to the home on Calder Avenue. Peak said Avantis Parker previously knew Charles and knew he dealt drugs.

Peak said she thought they were just going to buy some marijuana from Charles. When they got to the home on Calder Avenue, Avantis Parker got out of the vehicle.

Charles was parked in the driveway of Robert Allen Bow’s home on Calder Avenue. Bow said Charles texted him earlier in the day and came over, picked him up and the two of them drove to Charles’ cousin’s house before returning to Bow’s home. Charles parked in the driveway and the two of them saw Avantis Parker drive up and park across the street.

Avantis Parker approached the vehicle and asked Charles if he wanted to buy some Activis, a codeine cough syrup. Charles said no, but then told Avantis Parker to go get it and show him the Activis, Bow said.

Avantis Parker walked back to the G6 and got in the driver’s side, Bow testified. When he got back in, he spoke with Wimberly briefly before passing him something, but it’s unknown what it was, Peak said.

Earlier in the day, Peak said she saw Avantis Parker had a handgun in his waistband.

Bow got out of the vehicle after saying good-bye to Charles and went back into his house. As he was walking in, he noticed Parker and another man — who he didn’t know, but Peak identified as Wimberly — walking toward Charles’ vehicle. When Bow last saw him, Avantis Parker was speaking to Charles and Wimberly was standing in the middle of the street.

“He (Charles) said he was going to see about the Acitivs and I should get out of there,” Bow said.

About 10 seconds after he closed the door, Bow heard gunshots. Peak testified to seeing flashes of light and hearing the shots. Washtenaw County Chief Medical Examiner Jeffrey Jentzen testified Charles was shot five times — once directly through the heart and four more times in the buttocks. It was the shot in the heart that killed Charles, Jentzen said.

It’s alleged that Wimberly pulled the trigger after Charles again denied his offer at 9:51 p.m. A subpoena summoning Charles to court the next morning was found in the back seat of his car, Detective Thomas Sinks, of the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office, testified.

Peak said Avantis Parker and Wimberly got back in the car and Avantis Parker drove them away. None of the four people in the car spoke much about what happened, but Wimberly told them not to say anything about what just happened, according to testimony.

Peak said Avantis Parker looked like he couldn’t believe what happened.

“He was in a state of shock, like he didn’t realize anything like that was going to happen,” she said.

Charles died in the front seats of the Ford Fusion belonging to the mother of his child. He was slumped over the passenger seat, in a manner Jentzen said was consistent with someone trying to get out of the way of bullets.

The first shot came from an angle consistent with someone standing outside a car shooting into a seat, Jentzen said. The shot in Charles’ chest went through his left lung, his heart, his right lung and lodged in his right abdomen.

Alibis and credibility issues

What happened next is a matter of contention that is sure to play a large role in the case’s trial.

Peak testified the four people in the car returned to the home in Inkster, where she stayed for a bit before leaving. She said she returned later to pick up Parker and then they went home.

However, Raymond Burkett, Wimberly’s attorney, called two witnesses to the stand from a Walmart in Taylor. Ali Kassem, a loss prevention officer at the store, and Tammy Hige were meant to testify Wimberly was in the store at 10:11 p.m., just 20 minutes after the shooting.

Kassem complied with a subpoena, showing a man Burkett said was Wimberly shopping in the store for about 10 minutes. However, when pressed by Washtenaw County Assistant Prosecutor Dianna Collins, Kassem couldn’t say for certain the man in the store was Wimberly.

Burkett tried to admit photographs from security camera footage, the footage itself and a copy of a receipt into evidence, but 14A District Court Chief Judge Kirk Tabbey would not allow the motion. Tabbey said there was no clear evidence that the man in the photograph was Wimberly and Collins alleged the photos or the copy of the receipt could have been doctored to provide an alibi defense.

Collins asked Hige if she remembered the transaction or the man she checked out.

“No, it was too long ago,” Hige said.

Kassem said he was given the last four digits of a debit card number and ran them through the store’s security system. He tracked the person who made the transaction through the store, but could not positively identify the man as Wimberly.

“I don’t know if that is Willie Wimberly in the video,” he said.

After Tabbey rejected the evidence, Burkett and Gerald Evelyn, one of Parker’s attorneys, went back to a pattern they used during cross-examination — questioning Peak’s credibility.


Sophie Peak

Courtesy of the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office

Peak received immunity in the case from the state of Michigan to testify against Parker and Wimberly. Her testimony tied together the conspiracy to commit first-degree murder charges the two men face and she’s the only person who, so far, has implicated Wimberly in the incident.

However, she admitted multiple times to lying to police during her initial statements and said “I don’t remember” as an answer to many questions during her testimony on Thursday. She's also currently serving jail time for an armed robbery conviction, stemming from a case when she and Parker worked to rob a pizza delivery driver. Pleas were entered in that case four days before Charles' death.

At times during Peak’s testimony, Burkett and Evelyn seemed almost incredulous at her answers. Burkett questioned Peak for more than an hour before Evelyn got his chance to point out her inconsistencies and the fact that she was high on marijuana and Xanax during most of Jan. 29. During verbal arguments, the two lawyers said Peak’s lack of credibility was enough to dismiss some charges

“She’s a participant in this case,” Burkett said “She should have been charged in this case, she will say anything to get out of it. … She has basically no credibility whatsoever.”

Evelyn added later, “She confesses to be a liar six times and the seventh time is the truth.”

Heading toward trial

However, Tabbey said Peak’s credibility will be something for a jury to work out.

He bound Parker and Wimberly over for trial on all charges and said he was particularly struck by the extra four shots into Charles.

“You have to wonder why there were multiple shots in the buttocks,” he said, adding, “I don’t know if that’s overkill or to send a message or what.”

Parker is charged with open murder, being a felon in possession of a firearm, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, carrying a concealed weapon, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and intimidating a witness.

Wimberly faces charges of open murder, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, being a felon in possession of a firearm, carrying a concealed weapon in a motor vehicle and intimidating a witness.

Both men face a maximum of life in prison.

Parker and Wimberly are held in jail without bond. The two men will return to court for a pretrial hearing at 1:30 p.m. May 22 in front of Washtenaw County Trial Court Judge Archie Brown.

Kyle Feldscher covers cops and courts for He can be reached at or you can follow him on Twitter.



Fri, Apr 19, 2013 : 1:10 a.m.

Does anyone know what Parker got for the robbery charge on 17 April sentencing?


Sat, Apr 13, 2013 : 10:04 p.m.

"Washtenaw County Chief Medical Examiner Jeffrey Jentzen testified Charles was shot five times — once directly through the heart and four more times in the buttocks. It was the shot in the heart that killed Charles, Jentzen said." Glad we had the medical examiner to tell us one shot through the heart and not four in the buttocks is fatal.


Sat, Apr 13, 2013 : 8:35 a.m.

I'll spend the early part of my day consuming and dealing in various illicit drugs. Then I'll take my 18 year-old on-and-off girl friend along when I go to bribe/murder a prospective witness in the trial I'm a defendant in. Yeah, what could go wrong?!


Fri, Apr 12, 2013 : 6:50 p.m.

Interesting story.


Fri, Apr 12, 2013 : 3:23 p.m.

This story is so troubling to me, it has been all along. I recall reading the very first article regarding the "road rage" incident on New Year's Day, the article peaked my attention because I know a couple with a truck EXACTLY matching the one pictured that Charles and his girlfriend were driving. When I read he was killed prior to testimony I just couldn't believe someone was that brazen. As well, I couldn't believe the accused in the NYD incident were out of jail! Seeing the young man's name that I recall from last year's pizza robbery articles added to the mix was yet another level of disappointment, in society and rhe judicial system. Its too bad the main witness has credibility issues, this case needs a fair trial. The fact that Wimberly has gotten off on murder charges before is very troubling as well and speaks volumes to me as far as his character. This is not presumed, it was stated on before and I found it here: People can make comments about the victim and call him negative names but at the end of the day he was murdered, in seemingly cold blood and maybe his alleged activity wasn't wise but this is a terrible fate.


Fri, Apr 12, 2013 : 3:20 p.m.

This is crazy!!!


Fri, Apr 12, 2013 : 12:26 p.m.

This could mean a mad dash to the publisher between Elmore Leonard and Loren Estleman

Usual Suspect

Fri, Apr 12, 2013 : 12:23 p.m.

If you shoot somebody in the heart, what the heck is the point of four shots in the buttocks?


Sat, Apr 13, 2013 : 10:08 p.m.



Fri, Apr 12, 2013 : 4:20 p.m.



Fri, Apr 12, 2013 : 4:20 p.m.

I'm sure it wasn't the pot. Pot never contributes to bad decision making. Pot smokers are too chill to ever do anything violent.


Fri, Apr 12, 2013 : 3:52 p.m.

Really, what were they thinking? Ammunition is hard to find these days with paranoid ammo hoarders buying it all up. Why weren't these suspects more thoughtful while killing someone who was going to testify against them? Do you think that the trip to Applebees clouded their judgement?


Fri, Apr 12, 2013 : 12:45 p.m.

Suspect.....I was thinking about how that may have happened.My guess ( and only a guess ) was once he slumped to the side it was from four un aimed shots fired very quickly

Craig Lounsbury

Fri, Apr 12, 2013 : 12:17 p.m.

Once again I am going to suggest the headline is a tiny bit misleading. When I read the headline I thought of an upstanding citizen who couldn't be bought. That moment of civic pride was dashed in the first sentence.


Fri, Apr 12, 2013 : 1:06 p.m.

That, and the story is now being packaged as "road rage". The original story didn't come across as road rage.


Fri, Apr 12, 2013 : 11:47 a.m.

Ye reap what ye sow.


Fri, Apr 12, 2013 : 6:51 p.m.

Marijuana plants?


Fri, Apr 12, 2013 : 6:54 a.m.

How about looking up the criminal records of all and they all have lengthy histories of criminal activities that somehow the police in different areas let go???I smell a Rat / It is sad young people took this path but the courts and police could of listened and were well informed .

Kyle Feldscher

Fri, Apr 12, 2013 : 12:17 p.m.

Lisa- I cut out some of the criminal history in order to not bog down the story, which was already long enough. Sophie Peak was convicted on a charge of armed robbery stemming from this incident Parker pleaded no contest to assault with intent to rob while armed and armed robbery and pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony in that case. Wimberly also has previous convictions, but I cannot find a record of those at the moment.


Fri, Apr 12, 2013 : 5 a.m.

One correction testimoney should be spelled testimony in the story. Second, it appears these potential criminals, convicted criminals (in some cases) and known drug dealers where everywhere (Ypsilanti Township, Westland, Taylor, Inkster and Detroit). Besides the victim Charles formerly being a resident of Ypsilanti, were are the remaining defendants & witnesses from?

Kyle Feldscher

Fri, Apr 12, 2013 : 12:14 p.m.

YpsiGirl - I'm correcting that typo. Thanks for pointing it out. Avantis Parker is from Northville, Willie Wimberly is from Trenton and Sophie Peak is from Ypsilanti Township (I believe, I might need to double check that).


Fri, Apr 12, 2013 : 10:16 a.m.

Two corrections to your post: "known drug dealers where" should be "known drug dealers were". "were are the remaining" should be "where are the remaining"


Fri, Apr 12, 2013 : 3:52 a.m.

I can't wait to see ALL participating parties pay for their involvement.


Fri, Apr 12, 2013 : 2:40 a.m.

A lot of bad decisions by a lot of bad people. Put em away please, and for good this time. no parole.


Fri, Apr 12, 2013 : 2:07 a.m.

Almost everybody in this story is messed up per the norms of society, even before the murder. A sad commentary on the state of America.


Fri, Apr 12, 2013 : 2:01 p.m.

I think it says a lot about the state of America when the first comment is a joke.


Fri, Apr 12, 2013 : 11:41 a.m.

Well, the other way to look at it is, if this was the state of America, it wouldn't be news. Since it's really NOT the state of America, we've all been sitting here reading the article. Frankly, I know lots and lots of people, all employed legally, living "normal" lives, and none of them would have been involved with anything like this. They are the true definers of what the state of our country is, and they're the majority. There will always be people like this, who fall through the cracks, or, if lucky enough to be raised "right" will still choose this path. It's very sad.


Fri, Apr 12, 2013 : 1:15 a.m. hows yer butt feeling ? ( sitting on a unpaded bench all day ) You got me hooked this morning I was watching your tweets ( or whatever the hell that was ) all day


Fri, Apr 12, 2013 : 5:17 p.m.

jane.....that never even crossed my mind


Fri, Apr 12, 2013 : 3:16 p.m.

I think the thumbs down came because considering the slain young man was shot 4 times in the buttocks at initial sight of that comment it could be taken as a tasteless joke against the victim. Presuming not the intent but misleading nonetheless. When I FIRST read it I was like "what in the world?!" then I recalled the comments on his live feed yesterday.

Kyle Feldscher

Fri, Apr 12, 2013 : 12:12 p.m.

tdw and Nicholas- Well, I'm doing better now, but I'm pretty sure next time there's a special preliminary exam like that I'm going to bring my inflatable seat cushion I use for hiking. I'll tell ya guys, it's no joke in there.


Fri, Apr 12, 2013 : 10:49 a.m.

Just a FYI for the thumbs down trolls Kyle stated something to the effect of " if you are offered the chance to sit on a un padded bench for five hours tell them you'll pass "

Nicholas Urfe

Fri, Apr 12, 2013 : 3:07 a.m.

Won't someone please give Kyle a seat cushion! ;-)


Thu, Apr 11, 2013 : 11:47 p.m.

Gerald Evelyn is the attorney? I thought he was too frail to practice law anymore. Wasn't that what his law partner said as to why he would not represent Bobby Ferguson in Detroit on his next case? Guess he recovered enough for this one.


Fri, Apr 12, 2013 : 4:32 a.m.

You got that right Cash!


Thu, Apr 11, 2013 : 11:17 p.m.

Been seeing a lot of these offenders offending again while on bail or after released from custody. When are the judges going to be fired?


Thu, Apr 11, 2013 : 11:41 p.m.

IMO judges should get some kind of mark or demerit EVERY TIME someone they went soft on or allowed bond for is a recidivist....