A witness said Monday, during the second day of testimony in the animal-cruelty case against Travers and Tremayne Johnson, that she saw the defendants "running from the scene of the crime" seconds after a pit bull puppy was set on fire.
The identifications could net her thousands of dollars in reward money collected after the dog, nicknamed "Phoenix," was fatally burned in 2009, leading defense attorneys to question the motives of the witness. But Tiera Goodman, who is jailed in an unrelated case, readily acknowledged that she was there for the cash — to "get paid," as one lawyer put it.
"I know what I saw, I just didn't care until I seen the reward," Goodman said, explaining why she waited six days before approaching police.
It was a blunt admission of indifference compared with the outrage stirred in others over the burning death of the puupy, which was euthanized days after being doused in fuel and set ablaze. Hundreds of people donated nearly $28,000 in reward money, which will be paid out if there's a conviction in the case. And animal welfare representatives have been sitting in on the drawn-out proceedings for days, occasionally alongside law enforcement and local politicians.
Video from a city surveillance camera, narrated and interpreted by Sgt. Jarron Jackson, who was assigned to the case June 2, showed the dog's last moves before the attack in late May.
At 11:48 a.m., a man summons Phoenix and walks her over to two men standing on a street corner in West Baltimore. Their faces aren't visible, and it's hard to make out what they're wearing. The camera is posted high up and yards away.
Jackson identified the two males as the teenage Johnson brothers, however, based on their general appearance and mannerisms. Tremayne has a characteristic "wrist flick" move, Jackson said.
At 11:51, Travers kicks the dog, according to Jackson, and the brothers walk her to an alley entrance off Presbury Street. Seven minutes later, the brothers bolt from the direction of the alley and sprint away — right by Goodman, who's standing in the street with a friend, the sergeant said. Seconds later, Phoenix is seen on fire.
A minute passes, officers arrive and one tries to help the dog while gawkers gather. Then Tremayne Johnson reappears, two minutes after he allegedly ran away, Jackson said.
The figure walks up North Gilmor Street, seems to peek down Presbury toward the dog and officers, and does a quick about-face, returning from the direction he came. The move allows camera operators to capture a close-up shot that shows a young black man wearing a blue T-shirt with white lettering.
Goodman said she left when the police arrived, and came forward only "because there was a reward. It's posted all over the projects."
She first identified the brothers, who turn 19 on Saturday, by vague physical descriptions, then through nicknames and photo line-ups in subsequent visits.
"I was in the area a lot," she said.
Defense attorneys will have a chance to question Jackson when the trial resumes Tuesday, provided bad weather doesn't close the courts.
Video time sequences
11:50:56 a.m.: A man hands over Phoenix by leash to two males, identified as Travers and Tremayne Johnson by Baltimore Police Sgt. Jarron Jackson.
11:51:06: The male identified by police as Travers kicks the dog.
11:51:50: The two males and the dog walk down Presbury Street toward an alley.
11:57:14: Witness Tiera Goodman stands in street near convenience store.
11:58:03: Two males, identified by Goodman as the Johnson brothers, run from the direction of the alley.
11:58:09: First view of Phoenix on fire, near the mouth of the alley, which is obscured by bushes.
11:59:11: Officer Syreeta Teel uses her sweater to smother Phoenix's flames.
12:00:01: A male identified by Jackson as Tremayne appears to check out the situation and quickly leaves, turning to face the surveillance cameras, which capture a close-up.
Source: trial testimony