Birmingham Homicide Dec. 17, 2020
Former UAB football player Carlos Stephens said he fired the single shot that killed nursing student Destiny Washington as a warning in self-defense and had no idea anyone had been struck until the following day.
“I didn’t want to believe it was true,’’ said the now 24-year-old Stephens, who took the stand Friday in his own defense in his capital murder trial.
Washington, a beloved 20-year-old nursing student, was shot to death at 9:40 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020, in the parking lot of UAB’s student center on University Boulevard.
The deadly shooting happened during the sale of a pair of AirPods that Washington’s boyfriend was selling to Stephens’ girlfriend, a deal that had been brokered through Facebook Marketplace earlier that day.
The transaction went sour amid accusations of counterfeit money and fake AirPods, and ended with a deadly shot fired by Stephens.
Stephens, a former standout football player at Thompson High School who went on to play at UAB his freshman year and said he was a communications major on the Dean’s List at the time of the shooting, surrendered to police two days later.
Carlos Stephens (Birmingham Police Department)
He has remained in the Jefferson County Jail without bond since Dec. 21, 2020.
Stephens is represented by attorneys Emory Anthony and Bobby Lendell Davis.
Jefferson County deputy district attorneys Ashley Patterson and Jessica Hebson are prosecuting the case.
Circuit Judge Kechia Davis is presiding over the trial.
The courtroom was packed throughout the week with about 1 ½ dozen family members each of Washington and Stephens.
Prosecutors contend Stephens should be convicted of capital murder in Washington’s death, calling it a senseless, unreasonable and unnecessary act of violence.
Stephens’ attorneys, however, claim their client fired in self-defense only after Washington’s boyfriend pulled a gun on him and threatened to “blow him away.”
Stephens calmly and confidently testified for roughly 1 ½ hours Friday, the final witness to take the stand in the week-long trial. He frequently asked jurors if they could hear him OK and tried to make sure they understood what he was saying or showing them on a video screen in the courtroom.
He testified that his girlfriend at the time, Victoria Roberts, had communicated with Washington’s boyfriend – Keyuntae Moultrie – about the AirPods, which were to be sold for $90. Roberts lived in Huntsville, so she asked Stephens to go buy the AirPods for her.
Testimony showed that Stephens requested the transaction take place on UAB’s campus – not Irondale where Washington and her boyfriend lived – because he knew the area and because he believed there would be multiple video cameras on campus should anything go wrong.
“I was just trying to be safe the whole transaction,’’ Stephens testified.
Stephens said that Moultrie told him the AirPods would be $100 instead of $90, and assured Stephens that they were the real deal, not fake AirPods from China. He said he asked to test them out, and believed them to be fake but was still willing to buy them for $90, which he gave to Moultrie.
Stephens said he gave Moultrie the $90 in 20s and some fives, though Moultrie had said he gave him a counterfeit $100 bill. The AirPods, according to testimony, were indeed the fake devices from China.
Moultrie threw the money back into Stephens’ car, and grabbed the AirPods from Stephens’ lap, inadvertently hitting Stephens in the stomach when he did so.
Stephens then testified that Moutrie pulled his handgun out of his jacket pocket and threatened him.
Stephens said he put up his hands as Moultrie, still holding his gun, went back to his car, watching Stephens the entire time.
Testimony from Moultrie and Birmingham homicide Det. Kristopher Hatcher earlier this week revealed that Moultrie did not tell authorities in 2020 that he had pulled out his gun, a fact that only came to light two weeks before the trial began.
Stephens testified that his gun – a Ruger AR pistol – was in the backseat during the incident. He said he retrieved it as Moultrie walked back to his car and put it in his passenger’s seat. He said Moultrie then pulled his car closer to Stephens’ car and pointed a gun at him.
“I grabbed my gun, put my left hand over my face and shot a warning shot,’’ Stephens said. Testimony showed the bullet went through the license plate and back seat of Washington’s vehicle before striking her in the back.
Stephens said he wasn’t aware Washington, or anyone, was in the vehicle with Moultrie until after the transaction and said he then only saw a “figure” in the passenger’s seat.
Stephens said he then headed back to his mother’s house, tossing the AR pistol out of his car somewhere near Green Springs. Asked why he got rid of the gun, he said, ‘’I had just shot at somebody.”
He said he had to be at work at Fed Ex at 1 a.m., but when he got to work, he fell asleep in his car and didn’t wake up until daylight, missing his shift.
He went inside to pick up his check, and that’s when he said he learned that Washington had been shot and killed.
He said he told his family what happened, and then turned in his rental car because he planned on turning himself in to authorities and wouldn’t be needing a car.
He did so the following day at the UAB Police Department.
Jurors are expected to begin deliberations Friday afternoon.
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Birmingham Homicide Dec. 17, 2020