Trial underway for woman implicated in 2013 Cortland shooting

Shanessa Pittman in 2011 (Photo provided by City of Cortland Police Department)

The trial of a woman accused of fleeing to Virginia after she shot a man in 2013 from the front porch of a South Main street residence started Tuesday with eyewitness testimony.

Shanessa Pittman, 32, was staying at 152 Main Street on Aug. 30 when she stood on the front porch of the two-family residence about 10:30 p.m. and shot Jevar Sturridge in the arm with a .22 caliber handgun from across the street, according to the city police department and the Cortland County District Attorney’s Office.

Pittman, who was extradited from Virginia last October, sat nervously pulling the ends of her short dreadlocks while 19-year-old Kayla Smith told the jury she saw Pittman pointing the handgun across the street while on the front porch and heard the gun fire.

Smith said she was 13 in 2013 and giving her father a difficult time about going to bed when she saw Pittman stand on the porch through the bay window of her family’s first-floor Main Street apartment.

“I saw her standing at the top of the stairs,” said Smith, referring to the stairs to the porch.

Smith rose from the witness stand and reenacted for the jury how she saw Pittman, standing at the top of a short flight of stairs to the witness area and using her right to make the shape of a gun. Smith wrapped her left hand around her right and stood with both arms straight out at chest level pointed towards an imaginary Main Street.

“It was a handgun. It was black and silver,” Smith testified, adding she heard a loud popping noise followed by the sound of something metal hitting the metal front door.

“I think that’s something that sticks with you,” said the soft-spoken teen later in her testimony. “I remember seeing her hold the gun, hearing the popping noise.”

When Assistant Public Defender Thomas Miller asked Smith how long was the time between when she heard the gunshot and saw Pittman with the gun, Smith replied, “To me, it was almost instant.”

“I just remember hearing the noise,” said Smith, adding her father, Leon Charles Smith, immediately ducked when he heard the bang. “I remember he instantly dropped into a crouching position and it was like, ‘What was that?’”

Smith testified she yelled to her father, “She has a gun! She has a gun!” and he asked “Who? Who?”

“Then I just ran,” Kayla Smith said, adding she hid in a bedroom with her little sister.

Leon Charles Smith, who goes by Chuck Smith, testified he knew immediately after hearing the bang it was a shot from a small caliber weapon because of his military service and because his father owned two small caliber handguns. Smith said he peeked out the same bay window when he heard the shot.

“I saw the defendant hold the gun like she was going to take another round off, but she didn’t,” Chuck Smith said, adding she was pointing the gun so that a bullet would cross Main Street towards Randall Street. “I could see her face and her holding the gun straight out.”

Although it was night, there were enough outside lights to see who it was, Smith testified.

“There is a light right above my door so I could see who it was,” Smith said. “I remember her having tattoos on her face.”

Smith testified he also remembered hearing something hit the front door and said he later learned it was a bullet casing.

Both Kayla and Chuck Smith picked out Shanessa Pittman from separate police photo arrays after the shooting, according to court testimony.

Dr. Gary Johnson of SUNY Upstate Medical University also testified Jevar Sturridge, 26, who was living on Cleveland Street in Cortland in 2013, was treated for a gunshot wound that night. Sturridge’s wound was to his forearm near the wrist and included two holes with a wound channel in between. No bullet was recovered, Johnson said.

While Sturridge was stable, had normal vital signs and was discharged from the hospital that night, Johnson noted a gunshot wound is “a potentially serious injury.”

“Certainly they can be instantly fatal,” Johnson said, noting he has treated about 3,000 gunshot wounds since 1987. “They can be fatal in a two or three hour timeframe.”

Miller objected to Johnson’s testimony, stating it was a violation of Sturridge’s medical record privacy rights. District Attorney Patrick Perfetti argued Sturridge is the only one who can raise that right and he did not respond to a subpoena.

“All of your objections will be overruled Mr. Miller,” replied an obviously annoyed Judge Julie Campbell. “They do not lie in the law or the fact.”

Sturridge is not expected to testify in the trial; he is currently serving a 15-year federal prison sentence.

Sturridge was sentenced on August 24 after he pled guilty to possessing heroin, cocaine and crack cocaine with the intent to distribute them, as well as possessing a loaded handgun and shotgun in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, according to a Justice Department press release issued at the time. Sturridge, a Jamaican citizen, was also sentenced to eight years of supervised release as part of his April 10 plea bargain, but may face deportation instead.

According to the Justice Department, Sturridge admitted he had 48 grams of crack cocaine, 42 grams of powder cocaine, and 42 grams of heroin February 15, 2017, in his apartment in Massena, St. Lawrence County. Sturridge also said he had a loaded Smith and Wesson .40 caliber handgun and a loaded Mossberg 12-gauge shotgun in his apartment so he could guard his drugs and drug money from thieves, according to the department’s release.

Before the shooting, Chuck Smith testified he heard arguing and saw Pittman and Sturridge briefly on the porch through another window in the residence.

“There was arguing and some hollering before I heard the pop,” Smith said. “I seen them arguing very briefly because that’s when I heard the pop.”

After the shot was fired, Smith said he saw Pittman run towards where Sturridge had been shot.

“I see her run across the street toward Randall,” he said.

City Police Patrolman Ryan Gross testified he first encountered the bleeding Sturridge near NAPA Auto Parts at the intersection of Randall and South Main Streets, and that his blood trail showed he had gone down Randall Street.