The trail of Calvin Hooker III, who is charged with killing Cannibal started on Tuesday.
Calvin Hooker III is currently on trial for the following charges:
- first-degree murder of Thomas Cottingham
- aggravating menacing
- endangering the welfare of a child
- resisting arrest
- two weapons offenses
Amadi Muhammad was one of the first to take the stand and testify. Amandi is the women Cannibal step up to defended from an attack bu Calvin. The confrontation was recorded by a DART bus camera.
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Amadi Muhammad was pushing her 6-month-old daughter in a stroller near the Walnut Street YMCA in Wilmington on a warm evening in September 2015 when a man approached her, saying he’d been robbed of his cellphone.
Muhammad pointed out that he had a phone in his hand, but that did nothing to stop what was about to happen.
The 22-year-old woman testified, between sobs and deep breaths, about the dramatic scene in which the man – Calvin Hooker III – chased her and her baby to the DART bus shelter blocks away in busy Rodney Square. Then, when a bystander tried to intervene, Hooker stabbed him 14 times, leaving him in a pool of blood on the concrete.
“I was frantic and scared,” Muhammad said.
Muhammad’s testimony opened the Superior Court trial for Hooker on Tuesday. The 26-year-old defendant is charged with the first-degree murder of Thomas Cottingham, aggravating menacing, endangering the welfare of a child, resisting arrest and two weapons offenses.
Hooker’s attorney, Robert Goff, didn’t try to convince jurors that someone else was responsible for Cottingham’s death but instead asked them to weigh whether a ‘guilty but mentally ill’ verdict would be more appropriate.”Evidence will show what was unseen is the mental illness of my client,” Goff said.
The trial comes nearly a year and a half after the fatal stabbing shocked the city and nation. Support for Cottingham – a 27-year-old heavily tattooed and pierced skateboarder and rap artist – poured in from around the world, including from the Detroit-based hip-hop duo Insane Clown Posse and from former Mayor Dennis P. Williams, who dedicated a Rodney Square park bench in his honor.
Muhammad explained that on Sept. 14, 2015, she picked up her daughter from day care around 5:30 p.m. and went to visit friends in the city’s Eastside neighborhood. Hours later, she and her daughter left to go home.
As she walked past the YMCA, a man approached her asking if she knew who robbed him.
Muhammad grew worried. She said he smelled of dippers – a cigarette dipped in the illegal narcotic PCP. The powerful drug is known for causing wildly violent behavior and hallucinations.
The man followed her, as she sped up her pace and pretended to talk on the phone.
Muhammad said that once she saw him dig into his pockets, she started running with the stroller toward the bus stop across from the Wilmington Public Library in Rodney Square. The crowded city square did nothing to slow him. He continued to chase her with a knife over his head.
“I was running in circles on the green asking people to help me,” Muhammad said.Video footage from a DART bus at the scene showed Cottingham step in to try to diffuse the situation, but the knife was then turned on him. He was repeatedly stabbed in the back, hands, head and neck, according to testimony.
After relaying the story behind the shocking slaying, the prosecution asked Muhammad to identify the man responsible.
She slowly stood up and pointed at the table across the room where Hooker and his attorney sat.
“He’s right there,” she said in tears.
Superior Court President Judge Jan. R. Jurden immediately called for a recess to give Muhammad time to compose herself.
Deputy Attorney General Annemarie Puit said in opening arguments Tuesday that, after the stabbing, Hooker fled and tried to board another DART bus near Ninth and Market streets.
He was caught by police and found covered in blood. Puit said a DNA test determined the blood on his shorts, shoes and the knife was from Cottingham.
Goff said the state’s evidence shows only one piece of what happened that day. The other piece, he said, is Hooker’s state of mind.
“I’m not trying to diminish or minimize the horrible fate Thomas Cottingham suffered on Sept. 4,” Goff said. “But, as I said, that is only one piece of it.”
He said his client was homeless for several years and had been involuntarily admitted at least four times since 2009 to psychiatric hospitals for psychotic episodes and hallucinations.
Just before the stabbing, Hooker secured an apartment using his disability payments and was spending the day drinking alcohol and walking in the city, he said.
Hooker claimed he was assaulted and had his Beats headphones and phone stolen “but some of that didn’t happen because the cellphone was in his hands,” Goff said.
After the incident, Hooker was diagnosed with Schizoaffective disorder and continues to take medication.
“His mental illness is a stubborn one,” Goff said.
The trial is expected to continue Wednesday morning.