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By Doug Murphy Staff Writer The defense came out swinging Monday afternoon during opening statements in the murder trial of Kenrick Vincent. Vincent is one of three Gila River Indian Reservation residents arrested for the November 2000 slaying of Larry Vannoy, a 66-year-old Ahwatukee Foothills man. "Where we're going is a not guilty verdict for my client, because he wasn't there," defense attorney Nick Hentoff told the jury of six men and nine women. Hentoff, one of two attorneys defending Vincent, then questioned the credibility of the state's star witness, 16-year-old Dale Whitman, who has admitted to being present when Vannoy was killed and agreed to testify against Vincent in a plea agreement. Vincent, 27, faces ﬁrst-degree murder, kidnapping and robbery charges. If found guilty Maricopa County Superior Court Judge James Padish could sentence him to death by lethal injection. Prosecutor Noel Levy, in his opening statement to the jury, admitted that Whitman stabbed Vannoy while the truck was traveling down Interstate-10 to Maricopa Road. But when the truck ﬁnally stopped near the Wild Horse Pass Casino, it was Vincent who used a homemade machete to kill Vannoy, hacking at him at least a dozen times. That detail, and much of what Levy said in his opening statement, came from interviews and the expected testimony of Whitman. The teen, who could have been sentenced to life in prison if convicted of ﬁrst-degree murder, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in December. In return for the lesser charge, Whitman is scheduled to testify June 11 against Vincent, something that Hentoff stressed in his opening statement. "A young man, a (then) 15-year-old boy, simply threw his life away. And once he did that the family had to ﬁnd a way to get that life back," said Hentoff, who questioned Whitman's credibility.
Hentoff stressed that while there is overwhelming physical evidence that Whitman and 22-year-old James Cooper were in the truck and at the scene of the murder, "none exists when it comes to Mr. Vincent." He also stressed that many of the witnesses who will testify about the trio's actions before the murder, are relatives of Whitman. But Levy told the jury that Vincent's own mother told investigators that her son came to her house two days after the murder, telling her that "I'm in big trouble. I may never see you again." It took police 11 days to ﬁnd and arrest Vincent after Vannoy's body was discovered. A jury found Cooper guilty of ﬁrst-degree murder, robbery and a lesser charge of unlawful imprisonment in March. He could also receive the death penalty, and is awaiting sentencing in August. Whitman faces sentencing in August and could face between 16 and 22 years for seconddegree murder. Because of scheduling conﬂicts there will be no testimony on June 12 or 13. The trial is expected to last three weeks. The reporter can be reached at (480) 898-7914 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Copyright © 2001 Ahwatukee Foothills News