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Witness in Cosby Case Says Suspect Hunted Gun

TIMES STAFF WRITER

In the trial of the man accused of killing Ennis Cosby, a key witness refused to testify Thursday in apparent fear for his life and another said that defendant Mikail Markhasev lapsed into a near-panic after his search for the murder weapon failed.

“We got to get out of here!” Markhasev said when he and Michael Chang completed their search, according to witness Christopher So’s testimony.

He said Markhasev was “very agitated, very nervous.”

“I got to go back. I got to find that gun,” So said, allegedly quoting Markhasev. “I got to go away from here. I got to hide out.”

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So, who said he drove Markhasev and Chang to the area two days after Ennis Cosby was shot to death while changing a flat tire early last year, confirmed previous reports that he heard Markhasev say that “I killed a n-----. It’s big. It’s all over the news.”

So, who appeared wearing flip-flops, white shorts and a long-sleeve white shirt, was brought to court under the judge’s orders because he had failed to appear earlier in the week, when the prosecution originally had planned to call him.

His explanation for that failure introduced the element of fear into the trial for the first time since the prosecution raised it on opening day. Deputy Dist. Atty. Anne Ingalls argued then that she was concerned about the safety of jurors because of Markhasev’s suspected gang affiliations.

“If I was in custody again, I might as well kiss my life goodbye,” So said after the jury had been excused from the courtroom.

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So said he initially didn’t appear when called because he is on probation for an embezzlement conviction and he “had to think it over.” So said he fears he will be killed if he has to return to prison after giving testimony for the prosecution in this case.

But Judge David D. Perez granted Ingalls’ request to keep So in custody, in lieu of a $100,000 bond to ensure his return today for cross-examination by the defense.

So wasn’t the only key witness who said he feared giving testimony.

Chang, who is needed to corroborate So’s testimony, refused to testify, even in defiance of Perez’s order.

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As Chang entered the courtroom wearing an orange jail jumpsuit, Markhasev watched him walk down the aisle to the witness chair. Taking his seat, Chang appeared to catch Markhasev’s eye several times.

After Chang attempted to avoid testifying, saying he feared he would incriminate himself, Perez excused the jury to hear Chang’s explanation. As lawyers huddled with the judge, a faint smile crossed Markhasev’s lips.

Later, at Ingall’s request, Perez ordered Markhasev removed from the courtroom, ostensibly because Markhasev is not a legitimate party to a hearing on Chang’s legal situation.

Chang, who is in Orange County Jail awaiting trial on several theft and burglary charges, said that probation in another case prohibited him from talking with people in trouble with the law, which includes So and Markhasev.

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But even after Ingalls granted him immunity from being punished for that, Chang still refused to testify, implying that he could get in trouble while in jail.

“I’m in custody myself, and I just don’t want to testify,” he said.

Perez appointed the public defender’s office to represent Chang to explain the consequences for disobeying his order to testify.

Chang’s and So’s testimony are crucial to the prosecution because they are among four people who are expected to testify that Markhasev admitted the killing. The only person to see the killer that night was Cosby’s companion Stephanie Crane, and she failed to identify Markhasev in a lineup.

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Although So gave the essential details of their alleged search for the gun, Chang has to corroborate it.

Moreover, with the credibility of So, Chang and the other two witnesses who are expected to tie Markhasev to the killing in question, Ingalls needs as much corroboration as she can get for every element of her case.

The alleged frantic search for the murder weapon Jan. 18, two days after Cosby’s death, is one of those elements.

So said he had no idea that a search for a murder weapon was planned that day. He said Chang merely told him they were going to meet Markhasev to buy a gun.

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The three drove to a wooded area in the San Fernando Valley in North Hollywood near Valley Heart Road, a few miles from the crime scene.

So said he sat in the car while Chang and Markhasev searched. He said they were looking for a .38-caliber pistol, which was the same caliber as the weapon used to kill Cosby. As they walked back to the car after failing to find the gun, So said, he heard Markhasev say he killed the young man whose case had been all over the news. So said Chang was shocked.

“Michael [Chang] said, ‘You mean Cosby’s son?’ ” So testified. “They both got very quiet and they sat in my car.”

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That night, So said, he saw a composite sketch of the killer and recognized it as Markhasev.

“I went home and I was watching television, and I saw the composite sketch,” So testified. “I just went, ‘Whoa!’ I mean, that was the first reaction I had.”

He called the National Enquirer, a tabloid that offered a $100,000 reward to find out what kind of gun was used in the killing. So said he didn’t call police because he has disliked them ever since he was arrested in the embezzlement case.

So said he didn’t provide any information to the Enquirer, except his pager number. The tabloid called several more times, but he never gave them any information. Finally, the police, having obtained the pager number from the Enquirer, tracked him down and knocked on his door about two months later. He agreed to show them where Markhasev and Chang allegedly searched for the gun.

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Police later found the gun, wrapped in a dark knit hat.

The prosecution has said that a hair from that hat matched Markhasev’s DNA.


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