By PAUL J. YOUNG, City News Service–
Two brothers accused of gunning down a 25-year-old man during a drug deal that turned violent outside a Corona store must stand trial on murder and other charges, a judge ruled Wednesday.
Jhavionn Rayshawn Peery, 20, and Joseph Ed Peery, 23 -- both of Moreno Valley -- could each face life in prison without parole if convicted in the June 5, 2013, slaying of Brian McKnight of Riverside.
Following a two-day preliminary hearing at the Riverside Hall of Justice, Superior Court Judge Charles Koosed found there was sufficient evidence to bound the brothers over for trial on the murder count, as well as conspiracy to commit a felony and a special circumstance allegation of killing in the course of a robbery.
The judge scheduled a June 13 post-preliminary hearing arraignment.
The key witness testifying against the defendants was their younger brother, 17-year-old Joshawn Peery, who was prosecuted as an adult. On Tuesday, the teenager accepted a plea deal from the District Attorney's Office under which he's slated to receive a 13-year sentence for voluntary manslaughter.
The boy testified that his siblings talked openly about robbing McKnight, who had arranged to meet the defendants to purchase a pound of marijuana, which the men never actually possessed.
The witness alleged Joseph Peery was armed with a .40 caliber semiautomatic handgun that he kept tucked in a backpack. The brothers took their father's Chevrolet Avalanche pickup to meet McKnight at a Corona Wells Fargo bank, where the victim planned to withdraw $2,800 to buy the pot, according to Joshawn Peery.
He said McKnight was unable to withdraw all the funds he needed at the ATM and directed the brothers to follow him to a nearby Walmart, where he used a prepaid debit card to get the rest of the cash.
After McKnight had all the money in hand, he climbed into the defendants' truck and handed over half of it, then asked to see the marijuana, according to testimony.
The teen said his brother, Joseph, brandished the pistol at McKnight, ordering him to surrender the rest of the money and get out of the vehicle. When the victim refused, Joseph Peery allegedly shot him in the foot.
A struggle ensued, during which Joshawn Peery said McKnight tried to use him as a shield, resulting in the teenager and victim tumbling out of the pickup and into the parking lot. The witness alleged that his eldest brother then shot McKnight in the back.
There were multiple witnesses to the shooting, one of whom snapped photos with her camera phone as it was occurring, according to prosecutors. The defendants fled onto the Riverside (91) Freeway, momentarily exiting then getting back on, going west, according to testimony.
A California Highway Patrol officer spotted the pickup and pursued the defendants north onto the Corona (71) Expressway. After a 15-minute chase, Jhavionn Peery pulled over on the exit to Euclid Avenue in Chino, where all the brothers surrendered without incident.
Several good Samaritans attempted to perform CPR on McKnight, but he died soon after arrival at Riverside Community Hospital.
Jhavionn and Joseph Peery are each being held without bail at the Robert Presley Jail in Riverside. Joshawn Peery is being held at Riverside Juvenile Hall.