The case of a Maryville man accused of murdering a 26-year-old Louisville man was sent to a Blount County grand jury for possible indictment after a preliminary hearing Tuesday.
Five witnesses, including a woman who said she was involved with both men, testified in Judge William R. Brewer Jr.’s courtroom regarding the case of Steven Alexander Greene, 38. Prosecutors pushed probable cause that Green shot and killed John Willis, 26, in February, while the defense claimed there wasn’t enough physical evidence to prosecute him.
Willis’ body was discovered Feb. 16 at a 700 block apartment on Tupelo Way. He died from multiple close-range shotgun wounds, including to his face, according to an autopsy report presented in court.
Green was arrested by Alcoa Police officers on Feb. 25 and is charged with criminal homicide.
Arguably the most meaningful witness testimony Tuesday came from Heide Litton, who said she was not only Willis’ girlfriend, but also was sexually involved with Greene and used methamphetamine with him.
Greene, who was separated from his wife, lived with Litton, while the apartment where Willis’ body was found was in her name, according to testimony.
Litton testified that she picked up Willis’ laundry the evening of Feb. 13; they argued, which she said was typical in their relationship, and Willis had unknown company at the apartment.
Around 4 the next morning, Litton said, Greene woke her up, saying she needed to get dressed but not specifying why. She said Greene drove them both toward Farragut while making phone calls.
“He was trying to find somewhere to go and quick,” Litton said.
She testified that Greene told her he needed to lay low because he shot Willis, and that when they made stops such as at gas stations, Greene would throw different items into the trash.
Litton said she was “afraid” to question Greene, who, she testified, made her throw some of Willis’ electronic devices over a bridge on Pellissippi Parkway. She also said Greene made her wait three days before calling 911 about Willis’ body in the apartment.
Litton became emotional at times during testimony, saying she and Willis were off-and-on in their relationship, but were never able to truly part with each other.
“I took care of John. ... I loved the man,” Litton said.
Other witnesses who testified Tuesday included Alcoa Police Detective Jeff Parsons and three acquaintances of Greene who said they communicated with him following the alleged murder.
Parsons testified that he responded to a death investigation at the Tupelo Way apartment around noon Feb. 16.
Upon entry, Parsons said, he saw Willis’ legs in the doorway of the bedroom, where his body was; Willis’ body, which was found fully nude, apparently had gunshot wounds, and blood was splattered on walls and on the ceiling of both the bedroom and nearby bathroom. A photo of Willis’ body was among the evidence entered Tuesday.
Police took multiple security cameras from the apartment as evidence, but the cameras inside the residence had towels placed over them, and there was no footage from the date of the alleged murder, Parsons testified.
Parsons said Litton, who made the original 911 call on Feb. 16, wasn’t entirely honest in her initial statements to police, but eventually became more truthful.
Witnesses Terry Bertrang and Justin Barnard both testified that Greene attempted to sell a vehicle and shotgun; the gun had a “sticky residue” on it, Bertrang said, which he testified may have been caused by shooting watermelons.
Bertrang also testified that he and Greene were on a road trip Feb. 20 when Greene dozed off and muttered, “It’s a mess,” and “Shot him.”
In his testimony, Barnard said he bought a shotgun from Greene for $220 in the days after the alleged murder, but later turned it over to police after learning they were “hunting down” the gun.
Another witness, Ty Lett, testified that he was with Greene when he was arrested. Lett, a tattoo artist who met Greene via Facebook Marketplace, said he went with Greene to Willis’ apartment, where there was a lot of blood and a tooth, and that Greene said he had “surprised the guy” and “you wouldn’t believe the look on his face.”
Lett also said he and Greene had used meth together.
In a second testimony, Parsons said Willis’ blood was found in a van connected to the case, and police discovered after confiscating Greene’s phone that he downloaded an article about shotgun shell identification.
In final arguments, prosecutor Ryan Desmond said that though Litton is “knee-deep” in the situation, there is plenty of evidence for probable cause that Greene killed Willis.
Defense attorney Rick Owens argued that though prosecutors proved a crime took place, there wasn’t enough physical evidence to put guilt on Greene; Parsons testified no evidence reported so far by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation identified Greene.
When both sides rested, Brewer determined probable cause had been found, keeping Green’s $1 million bond intact as the case is sent to a grand jury.