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Grand Jury Transcripts Describe Night Cosby Died

TIMES STAFF WRITER

As Ennis Cosby labored over a flat tire, Mikail Markhasev, high on cocaine and heroin, emerged from the cold, drizzly darkness, pointed a gun in his face and demanded money.

Frightened, Cosby didn’t move fast enough and apparently angered his assailant by asking him to just “hold on,” according to newly released grand jury testimony.

“He just blasted him,” Michael Chang said, recounting a conversation with Markhasev just a few days after Ennis Cosby was killed. “He said he took too long.”

That scenario and other new details of the crime emerged in the grand jury testimony of Chang and Sara Peters, who was with Markhasev the night Cosby, the son of entertainer Bill Cosby, was killed.

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Their testimony helped to indict Markhasev for the crimes of murder and attempted robbery. But neither of the two witnesses ultimately testified in open court during Markhasev’s recently completed trial. Markhasev, 19, was convicted of murdering Cosby, 27, on Jan. 16, 1997, on Skirball Center Drive.

Convening three months after the crime, the grand jury heard Chang, a friend of the defendant, recount that Markhasev told him that Cosby was very frightened when Markhasev pulled a .38-caliber pistol on him and demanded money.

“Then you know what the n----- told me?” Markhasev asked Chang as if “astonished” by what Cosby said next.

“He told me he never had a gun to his face before and to kick back, to hold on,” Chang said, quoting Markhasev. “It was kind of like, ‘Can you believe what he said to me?’ ”

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That’s when Markhasev shot Cosby and fled to a waiting car where two friends stood by. They sped off and ditched the gun in a wooded area about five miles away.

The grand jury transcripts, which are usually public record after indictments are filed, have been under seal by court order for more than a year. They became available Wednesday after the Los Angeles Times and Associated Press asked Superior Court Judge David D. Perez to unseal them.

Chang was supposed to be a key prosecution witness in the case because he and a friend, Christopher So, helped Markhasev in an unsuccessful search for the gun. Police later found the gun wrapped in a knit cap that contained hairs matching Markhasev’s.

Chang appeared briefly in court but refused to testify, apparently out of fear of retaliation in jail, where he was awaiting trial on unrelated charges. His testimony would have boosted a key theory of the prosecution’s case--that Cosby was killed in a robbery attempt--and corroborated So’s testimony. So said he heard Markhasev tell Chang that “I killed a n-----. It’s all over the news.”

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Peters, who is in Orange County Jail awaiting trial on unrelated charges, also did not testify in the trial, and no explanation was given. She would have been an important witness because she could have placed Markhasev at the crime scene.

Chang’s and Peters’ testimony before the grand jury depicted a blurry, panicky scene in which Markhasev was frantic and exceedingly nervous, even for someone on drugs.

Peters, who admitted that she was “loaded” on cocaine and heroin and that her memory of that night was severely blurred, said she, her boyfriend, Eli Zakaria, and Markhasev stopped at a bank of phone booths at a park-and-ride lot about 450 feet away from where Cosby was changing his tire. Zakaria never testified in the trial or before the grand jury, citing his 5th Amendment right not to incriminate himself.

While Zakaria talked on the phone, Peters said, Markhasev left the car without saying specifically where he was going but leaving Peters with the vague impression that he was going to rob someone.

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Within minutes, she said, she heard a noise like a car backfiring, and a panicked Markhasev came running back to the car saying, “Let’s go. We’ve got to get out of here. Let’s go.”

Zakaria, sitting in the front seat, yelled, “What’s going on? What’s going on?” she said, adding that Markhasev refused to answer.

She said they drove to a wooded area. Although she didn’t know why they went there, her description of it matched the description of the area where the gun was ultimately found. Afterward, the three went to a friend’s house, where Zakaria and Markhasev started watching television news about the Cosby killing.

Markhasev “was kind of zoned out to the TV, with a really upset, scared-like look on his face. He was really scared,” Peters testified.

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As for Zakaria, he was angry, Peters said, because he had by then figured out that Markhasev had killed Cosby.

At one point, she acknowledged to the grand jury that she once told police that she heard Markhasev bemoaning his predicament.

“Why did it have to happen? Why did I have to do it?”


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