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Robbery accomplice says he tried to help Kaneohe murder victim flee


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POSTED: Wednesday, September 30, 2009

William Lee Freeman Jr. said he had not bargained on murder when he and a friend started robbing Hawaii drug dealers.

That is why he pushed a dashboard button to release a bound Benjamin Grajeda from the trunk of a car on Kaneohe Bay Drive, Freeman testified yesterday.

Grajeda managed to escape but prosecutors say he was gunned down anyway by defendant Jerrico Dewon Lindsey.

“;We came to Hawaii to get money,”; Freeman, 37, said in Circuit Court as a prosecution witness in Lindsey's trial on second-degree murder charges.

He said he reasoned, “;If we kill this guy, we're going to have to go back to Alabama with nothing.”;

Lindsey, 28, is on trial for the May 14, 2007, execution-style shooting death of Grajeda in Kaneohe, which occurred as shocked motorists drove past.

Freeman said he came to Hawaii at Lindsey's invitation to make money selling drugs. But because he did not know anyone here, they decided to make money robbing drug dealers.

He said he, Lindsey and a third man from Alabama, Reginald Pettway, were supposed to abduct Grajeda, 27, on May 14 outside a restaurant, rough him up and force him to take them to where he hid his money and drugs. He said Lindsey's girlfriend, Melissa Ann Ordonez, 23, was having dinner with Grajeda and had set up the abduction.

Ordonez told them she would send Grajeda on an errand and that they could search the apartment for the money and drugs while he was gone.

When Grajeda returned early, Freeman said, he and Lindsey beat him up. He said he bound Grajeda's mouth and ankles with duct tape, and the others stuffed Grajeda into the trunk.

After he pressed the trunk release, Freeman said he believed Grajeda was able to free his legs by slipping out of his pants.

The men fled after the shooting, but police caught Freeman and Lindsey after they abandoned their car in Haleiwa.

Freeman said he decided in April last year to testify for the state in a plea agreement after he was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma.