A wooden, weathered cross at the edge of the woods on North Street has a worn photo with part of the face missing.

The site is strewn with tattered beads, and flowers placed at the bottom are faded from age.

They mark the spot where Jamiah Ward died 4 1/2 years ago.

Corey Brandon Phillips, 27, is on trial for his slaying. Wednesday, a school bus carrying jurors, attorneys and the judge trudged through moist grass, biting insects and poison ivy to get a better idea of where Ward, 23, was stabbed to death, allegedly by Phillips.

The bus made its way through the downtown around 10 a.m., escorted by Lawrence County sheriff vehicles.

The tour was part of Phillips' homicide trial in the Lawrence County Court of Common Pleas, and the group, at the request of the state Office of the Attorney General, was touring locations that allegedly had been part of testimony about the Oct. 2, 2014, homicide.

The tour was overseen by Common Pleas Judge J. Craig Cox. He and the four attorneys and court personnel were dressed for business, clad in suits and ties and skirts. The jurors had been instructed Monday to report to the courthouse yesterday wearing "reasonable shoes." Some chose to trek part way down the steep hillside and rugged terrain, where the two men allegedly had fought that morning before Ward died.

Phillips is accused of stabbing Ward multiple times following a fight about items they allegedly had stolen while looting cars near New Castle High School. Ward never went home that night, and according to testimony in the trial, his girlfriend and family members reported him missing. Ward's body was found six days later under a pile of branches and leaves in a wooded area not far from the New Castle police station. 

Phillips also was on the tour, seated at the back of the bus and guarded by sheriff deputies.

The bus stopped at the top of the hill at Shaw Street, south of New Castle High School, where an eroded blacktopped path led to where Ward allegedly met his death. New Castle police detective Lt. Kevin Seelbaugh and former city police officer Aaron Vitale walked down to the area where they believe the fight started, and explained the surroundings to the group. Vitale has since taken a position with the state attorney general's office.

The bus stopped downtown near the North Street Bridge, where jurors walked to the woods at the bottom of that hill, known as "the cut," to see where Ward's body reportedly had been found. Then the tour proceeded to Whippo Street at East Washington Street to give the group a view of an apartment building that played a key role in the unfolding of the case.

A court stenographer transported her steno machine and stand to the site, where the judge explained on the court record with attorneys present, what the jury was seeing.

Testimony in the case resumed in the afternoon. Attorneys on the tour included deputies Attorney General deputies Patrick Schulte and Bobbi Jo Wagner, as prosecutors, and Lawrence County Public Defender Larry Keith and assistant public defender Dennis Elisco as Phillips' defense.

The prosecution is seeking a first-degree murder verdict in Ward's death.

dwachter@ncnewsonline.com

 

Interview shows Phillips changed his story

Reporter

Debbie's been a journalist at the New Castle News since 1978, and covers county government, police and fire, New Castle schools, environment and various other realms. She also writes features, takes photos and video and copy edits.

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