Convicted armed robber testifies against accused killer of Algiers man _lowres

Kendall Harrison

A convicted felon who was being held in Orleans Parish Prison alongside Kendall Harrison in 2012 has told a jury that Harrison admitted to him he had shot Harry “Mike” Ainsworth as the Algiers Point handyman tried to stop a carjacking attempt earlier that year.

“He asked me if I knew anything about forensic evidence. I asked him what he meant. That’s when he told me he was carjacking a lady and a man came up and got in his way, and that’s when he shot the man, and he thought he had wiped the car down,” Joshua McReynolds testified Saturday in Orleans Parish Criminal District Court.

“He said he didn’t want to kill the guy. He just got in his way. He was scared. I asked him what’s it like to kill a guy. He said it was similar to shooting a bird with a BB gun.”

McReynolds, 28, is serving a 20-year state prison stint after pleading guilty to armed robbery about a month after Harrison’s purported admission while the two inmates were housed in protective custody in the city’s Templeman V jail facility.

During a testy exchange with Harrison’s defense attorney, Lionel “Lon” Burns, McReynolds vehemently denied seeking a reduced sentence in return for his testimony.

The jury heard evidence throughout the weekend in a trial that began Tuesday and will continue this week.

Prosecutors Payal Patel and Alex Calenda continued Sunday to lay out their case against Harrison for a killing in which police weren’t able to obtain a positive eyewitness identification of Harrison as the shooter. The 20-year-old defendant has not confessed to the crime, and the 9 mm murder weapon has not been found.

On Sunday, the prosecutors began presenting evidence of a “trace” DNA match to Harrison from genetic material found in Anita Hedgepeth’s Saturn Ion, the car Harrison allegedly was trying to steal.

Hedgepeth’s screams during the carjacking drew Ainsworth’s attention as he dropped his two boys, ages 9 and 10, off at a nearby corner bus stop about 7 a.m. Jan. 25, 2012.

He ran down the street, leaped onto the Saturn’s hood and started bashing the windshield with his fists before he was shot twice in the chest. Ainsworth, a booster for police organizations, ran across the street and fell onto the lawn of the house in the 500 block of Vallette Street where Hedgepeth lived.

He was quickly hailed as a Good Samaritan after a killing that shook the normally sleepy neighborhood and alarmed the city.

McReynolds said he had heard news reports of the killing while in jail months earlier but had no idea police had arrested Harrison for it, until the two struck up a conversation while they were together in jail.

“That was the first time I knew it was him,” McReynolds said.

He said he twice wrote to District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office about what he said Harrison had told him, the first time in 2012, but he never heard back until this year, when prosecutors came for his story.

McReynolds said he has no expectation of receiving a reduced sentence for his testimony, although he has filed an application from prison for post-conviction relief, seeking a revised, 10-year sentence based on other legal claims.

“The only thing I ask is they make sure they place me somewhere I might be safe,” he said. “I’m not benefiting from this in any way, just to get this off my chest. I’m in danger just by sitting up here in this chair.”

Police Officer Troy Dickerson testified Sunday morning about the collection of DNA evidence from Hedgepeth’s car.

In his cross-examination, Burns suggested a challenge to the police handling of the car, with its key DNA evidence against his client.

Harrison, who was 17 when Ainsworth was shot, told police he was in Harvey when the killing took place and hadn’t been in Algiers Point for more than a week prior to Ainsworth’s killing. But a pair of relatives testified that he was with them, three blocks away. A cousin said he showed up around 7:30 a.m. as police converged on the crime scene after the shooting that morning.

Other witnesses reported the shooter took a circuitous route toward the 800 block of Vallette, where the relatives said Harrison was.

Harrison faces a life prison term if the jury finds him guilty of second-degree murder. He also is being tried on an armed robbery count in the carjacking.

Follow John Simerman on Twitter, @johnsimerman.