Leslie Ware Jr. consults with his attorney, Woody Smith. Ware is on trial for a double murder that took place in 2005. Nick Shepherd photo.
Two armed men got out of a gray Lincoln and walked inside the Sole candle shop, which authorities say was a front for a cocaine operation.
Once inside, they ordered the decoy to get out and told another man to remain quiet and went to the back of the shop.
Outside, Clyde Green was ordered out of the Lincoln and into the shop to tell the two inside to hurry up. When he entered the candle shop, no one was around, so he went to the back and found Leslie Ware Jr. holding a gun to the back of Jeffrin Nolan’s head.
“Where is the rest of the money,” Ware said. “Where is the rest of the cocaine?”
Nolan told him that was all the money and all the cocaine he had. Ware then pulled the trigger.
That was the picture painted by the prosecution in opening statements at the double murder trial of Ware, 35.
Ware is being tried on two counts of premeditated first-degree murder and two counts of felony first-degree murder for the 2005 double murder of Nolan, 27, and Terrence Alexander, 21.
Ware is also being charged with one count each of especially aggravated robbery, criminal conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery, criminal conspiracy to possess more than 26 grams of cocaine with intent to sell or deliver, possession of over 26 grams of cocaine for resale and maintaining a dwelling where controlled substances are used or sold.
Assistant District Attorney General Joseph Perrin stood before a jury of seven women and eight men a few minutes after 10 a.m. and presented the outline of the state of Tennessee’s case against Ware.
Perrin started off by telling the jury that Sole candle shop was a front for a large cocaine operation headed by Nolan. The front of the shop had candles and some incense, but the back of the shop was where Nolan sold cocaine, even though he was on probation, Perrin said.
Nolan did not deal small quantities of cocaine like a street dealer but was a wholesaler of cocaine, selling as much as one to two kilos a week for between $20,000 and $40,000, Perrin said.
Osheen Massey was a coke dealer himself, according to Perrin, though his operation was not as extensive as Nolan’s. He plotted, along with Ware and his brother, to rob Nolan. The trio planned the robbery in their home in Piney Flats and came to an agreement that Nolan had to die because he knew who they were, Perrin told the jury.
In the late afternoon hours of Nov. 18, 2005, Octavia Brooks walked into Sole candle shop to buy cocaine. She was actually Massey’s decoy, the Perrin said.
A decoy was needed because of the way Nolan ran his business. Nolan kept a gun under the front counter of the candle shop. Whenever a male customer came in, he would keep the gun in the waistband of his pants for the entire time the man was there and would make the men wait in the front part of the store. But when a female customer was in the shop, he would leave the gun under the counter and invite the women into the back of his shop, Perrin said.
Brooks had worked with Nolan before, so he had no reason to be suspicious. He left his gun under the counter as usual, and went into the back to get Brooks’ order, Perrin told the jury.
Perrin said, Alexander, another young street dealer was there with Brooks.
A few minutes after Brooks entered the candle shop, Ware and Jawaune Massey, Osheen’s brother, entered the candle shop, Perrin said.
The reason Ware allegedly asked Nolan about the rest of the cocaine and money is because Nolan only took what he was going to sell that day to the shop with him. So all Nolan had on him was around an eighth of an ounce of cocaine and a couple thousand dollars, Perrin said.
After Ware allegedly shot Nolan, Green headed outside. Once outside, Green heard two more gunshots and was quickly accompanied by Ware and Massey, Perrin told to the jury.
Once the group of around six people arrived at their Piney Flats home, they had to divide up the cocaine and money. An argument ensued about who should get what, with Ware supposedly saying he should get the most because he killed Nolan, Perrin said.
Once police started investigating, it was determined by the group that Ware and Brooks should head to New York City. Before they left, the group stopped at a bridge in Piney Flats and Ware tossed the gun he had used to kill Nolan into the lake, Perrin said.
Fifteen months later, Ware was arrested in New York City. The gun has never been found.
Once the prosecution finished stating its case to the jury, it was the defense’s turn.
Attorney Woody Smith, representing Ware, said none of the descriptions from eyewitnesses would match his client. He also addressed the co-conspirators that would be testifying in the case.
“The last group of witnesses you will hear from, the co-defendants and co-conspirators, are nothing but thieves, liars and drug pushers,” Smith said.
Smith said the jury would notice many inconsistencies from witness to witness because the co-defendants have adapted their story to fit what the police wanted. Smith said he was confident at the end of the trial, the jury would have reasonable doubt regarding Ware.
The first witness, Daniel Horne, was called right after opening statements. Horne was the responding officer and told the jury what he found when he was called to the Sole candle shop.
The trial is expected to last upward of three weeks.
If convicted, Ware faces life in prison with the possibility of parole. The death penalty was taken off the table last January.