Defendant testifies against codefendants, one a pro baseball player, in Lawrence aggravated robbery case
Originally charged with burglary and four counts of aggravated robbery, a defendant in a case involving five men who are accused of entering a home, battering its residents and stealing marijuana and cash Nov. 8 testified against his codefendants at a preliminary hearing Wednesday as part of a plea deal lessening his charges.
Zachary John Pence, 21, of Lawrence, told the court Wednesday that Gabriel Alexander Patterson, 20, and professional baseball player for the Red Sox farm team Cody Scott Kukuk, 21, both of Lawrence, picked Pence up around 4:30 a.m. on Nov. 8. Patterson had called to ask Pence if he would “help him with something,” Pence said.
Kukuk and Patterson then took Pence back to their home, where they met Driskell Alan Johnson, 20, of Lawrence, and Yusef Muhammad Kindell, 20, of Lawrence, and the five decided to rob “these people who sold weed,” Pence testified.
In preparation, Pence said, Kukuk showed him a backward hoodie he planned to wear over his head with eyeholes cut out to disguise his face and a wooden table leg he intended to use as a weapon. Kindell wore a bandana around his face and Pence said he didn’t know if Patterson and Johnson were disguised. Pence said he did not disguise himself because he was told he would not know the victims.
Pence said that upon arrival at the victims’ apartment, Kukuk and Johnson, armed with an unloaded gun, were the only two with weapons.
Pence said he “fiddled with the window” before breaking down the front door, then Kukuk and Johnson went upstairs, eventually pulling a “naked kid” onto the hallway floor, pointing the gun to his head. Pence followed and took the victim’s phone, he said.
Pence said Johnson later bragged about “pistol whipping” the upstairs victim.
Kukuk and Johnson then took another victim downstairs, setting him on the couch, before breaking into a main-floor bedroom. Pence said he punched the victim on the couch.
The victim inside the main-floor bedroom, Christopher Adams, a soon-to-be Kansas University senior, said he was asleep when two men with ski masks burst into his bedroom, turned on the light and began striking him with a wooden table leg and pointing a gun to his head.
Adams said the two masked men told him, “We’re not playing around, we’re serious. This is not a game,” and demanded money and marijuana. Adams then directed the men to a safe under his bed that held about four ounces of marijuana and $900, he said.
The men then left his room, leaving him with multiple injuries to his chin and back, and he heard a man say “I’m taking your Xbox.”
Adams said he had seen Yusef, whom he knew from a 2012 KU French class and had come to his residence once before, at The Cave nightclub, 1200 Oread Ave., earlier that morning. Yusef had asked Adams if he “was still selling weed” and if he lived at his same apartment, to which Adams told him yes.
When Kukuk and Johnson left Adams’ room, Pence said, Johnson took an Xbox and the five ran back to Patterson and Kukuk’s home and divided up the contents of the safe. Pence said that he received $300 and a “baggie of weed.” He did not know what his codefendants received.
In exchange for his testimony, prosecutor Eve Kemple offered to drop Pence’s charges from burglary and four counts of aggravated robbery to just two charges of robbery. If convicted of the original charges, Pence could have spent up to 247 months in prison. If convicted of the new charges, Pence could receive probation.
Johnson, Kindell, Kukuk and Patterson remain charged with four counts of aggravated robbery and one count of aggravated burglary.
Douglas County District Judge Paula Martin will make a decision on whether to bind the men over for trial after the second half of the preliminary hearing concludes on Friday.
Booking mugs of the defendants were not available from the county jail as of today’s press time.