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The Journal Gazette

  • Underwood

Friday, October 04, 2019 1:00 am

Jury acquits in killing of coach

Victim's family threatens defendant outside courthouse

MATTHEW LEBLANC | The Journal Gazette

A message written in chalk outside the Allen County Courthouse asked for peace. 

There will be no peace for Shirley Miles. 

Her nephew, Terrance Miles, was killed May 19, 2017, outside East Central Towers, an apartment complex east of downtown. Thursday, an Allen County jury found the man charged with shooting the popular 36-year-old football coach to death not guilty of murder. 

“If he'd have killed one of their family members, it would be different,” a distraught Shirley Miles said after jurors returned the verdict after 51/2 hours of deliberations.

Henry E. Underwood, 25, and Jaevin Bowie, 23, were at the complex – “rifling through vehicles,” police said – and Underwood was charged with murder, felony murder and attempted robbery in the slaying. Jurors found him not guilty of each. 

Members of Terrance Miles' family threatened Underwood outside the courthouse, and sheriff's deputies shielded defense attorneys as they walked from the building. 

A three-day trial that ended Thursday hinged on the testimony of Bowie, who had been charged with murder but pleaded guilty to lesser charges and agreed to testify against Underwood, also known as “Heezie” or “Heezy.” Bowie told investigators days after the shooting and said in court Wednesday that Underwood shot Terrance Miles. 

Terrance Miles said he didn't have any money before being shot in the hand, leg and back, Bowie testified, and a Fort Wayne Police Department crime scene investigator said the fatal shot pierced the heart of the North Side High School assistant football coach and damaged his liver. 

After jurors decided his fate, Underwood stood and was quickly embraced by Allen County Interim Chief Public Defender Michelle Kraus, who was admonished by a judge when she didn't quickly let go. 

“(We are) thrilled with the verdict,” defense attorney Aaron Stoll said, expressing sympathy for the Miles family. “I'd say it's a victory for the rule of law.”

Police were called around 12:20 a.m. to the complex, where witnesses said they heard four or five shots and saw a man running from the area. Terrance Miles, who Bowie said was his mentor, was found dead, lying on his back. 

Bowie was arrested last year in Biloxi, Mississippi, and pleaded guilty as part of an agreement with prosecutors in July 2018 to assisting a criminal and attempted theft. A sentencing hearing is scheduled Oct. 22.

Underwood was arrested and charged days after Bowie's guilty plea. 

Allen County Deputy Prosecutors Jeff Stineburg and Alison Yeager argued throughout the trial that Bowie's eyewitness account proves Underwood was the killer.

An Allen County Jail inmate heard Underwood admit to the killing and express a desire to frame Bowie, prosecutors said. 

“Henry saw an opportunity to rob somebody,” Stineburg said. “He killed (Terrance Miles).”

Defense attorneys William Lebrato and Stoll painted a different picture of Bowie and their client, who they insisted is innocent. 

Bowie admitted lying in interviews with police, and Underwood's lawyers questioned the veracity of his testimony and statements from depositions. They – and Underwood, who interrupted Bowie on the witness stand – said Bowie killed Terrance Miles. 

Stoll said Bowie can't be trusted and no physical evidence ties Underwood to the crime. “Take what Jaevin says with a grain of salt,” Stoll told jurors in closing arguments. 

Bowie admitted throwing two guns – one, a .45-caliber handgun investigators said was used in the shooting – into a garbage chute at the apartment complex, but said Underwood directed him to do so. 

The trial included testimony from Natasha Moore, who shared an apartment at East Central Towers with Bowie and said Underwood was drinking and acting aggressive the night Terrance Miles was killed.

Another resident testified she heard gunshots and saw someone running, but she could not identify the person. 

An unusual moment occurred Thursday when a witness – Shane Patton, a man recently convicted of neglect in the death of a 2-year-old girl last year and ordered to spend 14 years in prison – was questioned by Lebrato.

Patton shared a cell this year with Bowie at the jail and told the defense attorney he had information about Underwood's case. 

Lebrato asked about the information and Stineburg objected, citing hearsay. Allen Superior Court Judge Fran Gull sustained the objection, and Patton was allowed to step down from the witness stand without explaining.

Stineburg lauded the work of police detectives who worked on the case. 

“We, obviously, respect the jury's decision,” he said. “It's unfortunate Terrance's family didn't get the outcome that would have given them closure.”