Seventeen-year-old Cody Mathis pleaded not guilty to murder in his first court appearance Wednesday morning.
Mathis is accused of killing 57-year-old David Rutherford on June 26. He surrendered to police Sunday.
Rutherford's body was found around 5 PM, but investigators believe the events leading up to his death started in the early morning hours.
In court Wednesday, it was revealed by Detective John Bailey with Columbus Police that phone records show at 12:25 AM on the day of the murder, Mathis had a four-minute conversation with Rutherford. It is not known if the two had a personal relationship or whether it was a business call since Rutherford was a taxi driver.
"It was the last phone call that the victim received or made," Det. Bailey testified.
An eyewitness told authorities that around 12:30 AM they saw a fight between Rutherford and an unidentified man just yards from the victim's house at the intersection of 28th Street and 16th Avenue. Rutherford lived on 28th Street and Mathis lives on 19th Street.
Detective John Bailey said the eyewitness heard arguing and then a gunshot. The person then went outside and saw a man punching and kicking Rutherford, who was on the ground. The witness told authorities they were going to call police after the man took off, but didn't after Rutherford stood up and staggered off towards an open field.
Mathis' defense attorney, Stacey Jackson, said that opens the door for more speculation. "There may have been a second person that attacked Mr. Rutherford who actually is the person who caused his death."
Witnesses told investigators Mathis was seen in the area around the time of the fight with a gun. But no one can positively identify Mathis as being involved in the altercation.
Jackson said that is a key part in the case. "There were no witnesses to the incident and there's no fingerprints or anything that were recovered."
Later that afternoon, a few blocks away from the fight scene, Rutherford's body was discovered behind Ward Chapel AME Church with lacerations to the head and forehead and a gunshot wound to the thigh. Officials said it seems a combination of his injuries led to his death.
Detective Bailey testified that jewelry obtained in Mathis' house during a police search is an important piece of evidence that could link him to the murder. About four hours after the fight there was a burglary in the house across the street from where the victim lived. A class ring that was stolen was found in the suspect's house.
Ammunition was also discovered during the search, but not any that matched the bullet that is believed to have led to Rutherford's death.
Detectives also recovered a pair of pants with what appeared to have blood stains around the waist band. It is being sent to the crime lab for testing. "Things aren't always what they seem," Jackson answered when asked about that piece of evidence.
Mathis has not been given bond and his case has been bound over to superior court.
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