A trial witness testified Thursday that a man charged in a Bowling Green slaying was involved in a shooting at Franklin the night before the deadly shooting that is the subject of this trial.
Vincent Ficklin, 48, of Franklin, is on trial in Warren Circuit Court on charges of murder and first-degree robbery.
Ficklin is accused of killing Timothy Massey, 41, of Bowling Green, with a single gunshot Feb. 10, 2017, at a house on West 15th Avenue and then taking Massey’s Ford Expedition, which was recovered about a week later in Mississippi.
On the trial’s third day, Warren County Commonwealth’s Attorney Chris Cohron called a number of witnesses in an effort to tie Ficklin to a shooting Feb. 9, 2017, outside the American Legion hall in Franklin.
Shell casings recovered from both crime scenes were examined by a firearms expert and determined to have been fired from the same unknown weapon, Cohron said.
Ficklin is awaiting trial in Simpson County on charges of attempted murder, first-degree assault and first-degree wanton endangerment.
On Thursday, Donnell Flippin testified about driving to the American Legion hall with two people and talking with Ficklin briefly before going inside.
Flippin said he owed Ficklin about $60 for drugs at the time and Ficklin had walked to his truck to ask about the money.
“I said I’d pay him after I came back from the scrapyard and he started acting asinine and said, ‘If you can’t pay, then can I use your truck?’ ” Flippin said. “I said no and he stormed off.”
After spending some time in the hall, Flippin returned to the truck and was inside when he heard a loud noise and one of his windows shatter.
Christine Crowder, who was also in the truck, had been hit in the left forearm and right hand by a bullet. Flippin said he pushed Crowder out of the truck and chased Ficklin when he saw him running.
“I was going to run him over if I could because he shot my truck window out,” Flippin said, adding that he returned to get Crowder and drove her to the hospital after losing sight of Ficklin.
Flippin testified that he saw Ficklin with a gun as he was running, but he did not see who shot at his truck.
Ficklin’s attorney, Jason McGee of the state Department of Public Advocacy, asked whether Flippin owed money to Adrian Nolan, who was seen with Massey in the hours before his death.
Flippin denied he owed money to Nolan but said he had used his truck as collateral when buying drugs from him and testified he had taken his truck back from Nolan not long before the shooting.
“I took my truck back because I’d done some work for (Nolan) and I really didn’t think I owed him anything,” Flippin said.
Crowder testified that she remembered Flippin and Ficklin having an apparently friendly conversation outside the Legion hall before the shooting, but she did not see anyone with a gun that night.
Another witness, Freda Pegues, said she saw Ficklin out of the corner of her eye as she walked out of the Legion hall to get into her ride home, then heard two shots from Ficklin’s direction seconds after seeing him. “I didn’t want to stay around amongst that stuff,” Pegues said.
Pegues also testified that she did not see Ficklin with a gun at the time.
Police track movements
Detective Eric Stroud of the Bowling Green Police Department testified Thursday about law enforcement’s efforts to piece together Massey’s final hours on the night of Feb. 9, 2017, and the early morning of Feb. 10, along with the actions of Ficklin and Donnie Flippin, who were the last two people to see him.
Donnie Flippin is Donnell Flippin’s cousin.
Stroud said police, through interviews and surveillance footage, documented Massey’s Ford Expedition stopping at White Castle, La Quinta Inn and Home Towne Suites early Feb. 10, 2017, with Massey, Ficklin, Donnie Flippin and Nolan occupying the vehicle at various points.
Jurors were shown surveillance footage from several locations.
Massey is last captured on video at Home Towne Suites on Mel Browning Road, knocking on the door of a room for about seven minutes before leaving at 4:29 a.m., Feb. 10, 2017, Stroud said.
Massey’s Expedition had a GPS tracker placed there by the car lot from which the vehicle was purchased, and police were able to track the vehicle after it left the West 15th Avenue house where Massey was shot.
Stroud said the vehicle’s last GPS coordinates were registered in Pulaski, Tenn., about 16 miles from the Alabama state line, the day after Massey died, and police recovered the vehicle from there.
City police obtained search warrants for a cellphone registered to Ficklin and used the locations of cell towers where Ficklin’s number pinged in order to attempt to track his movements as well.
Stroud said the cellphone records showed Ficklin’s phone hitting towers in Franklin late Feb. 9, 2017, from the time of the VFW shooting until 2:19 a.m. the next day, when the number starts pinging at towers closer to Bowling Green.
A cell tower at Western Kentucky University’s campus pinged Ficklin’s phone three times between 3:08 a.m. and 4:29 a.m., and then Ficklin’s phone hit near Gordon Avenue at 5:38 a.m.
Police tracked Ficklin’s phone through towers later that morning near Oakland, Park City and Horse Cave, and then south through Tennessee and into Huntsville, Ala.
Surveillance cameras outside businesses on Chestnut Street, Broadway Avenue and Scottsville Road recorded Donnie Flippin walking past at various intervals in the hours after Massey was believed to have been shot, starting at Mellow Mushroom at 5:52 a.m. until he reached Home Towne Suites and is seen leaving there with Nolan at 9:11 a.m. Feb. 10, 2017.
Stroud learned Donnie Flippin had been arrested in Simpson County during a drug bust the day after Massey was shot, and the detective interviewed Flippin five times over the next few days at Simpson County Detention Center.
Stroud said Flippin lied about a number of details in his first two interviews, before being forthcoming the next day in a third interview.
“In the third interview he was beginning to come off it,” Stroud said. “In my opinion, (Donnie Flippin) felt like we were coming down, and for everything I was able to corroborate he was being truthful.”
Jurors heard a recording of the interview Stroud conducted with Ficklin in Mississippi after his arrest, in which Ficklin denied having a gun in his possession on the day of the shooting and said he had traveled from Franklin to Bowling Green with Massey and Donnie Flippin to the house on West 15th Avenue where Flippin sold drugs.
Ficklin arrested in Mississippi
Jacquelyn Derrick, who dated Ficklin at the time and has two children in common with him, testified that Ficklin called her Feb. 11, 2017, at her home in Alabama and had her come and pick him up at an exit ramp in Tennessee.
Derrick said Ficklin was not carrying a change of clothes or any other luggage and was not near a vehicle when she picked him up.
Derrick said Ficklin told her he had been driving “some dope fiend’s” vehicle when it ran out of gas in Tennessee.
Ficklin stayed at Derrick’s home for about a week before taking her car while she was at work. Derrick said she hadn’t allowed Ficklin to take the car, but he called and said he was taking the car to her mother’s home in Mississippi.
Instead, the car was found stuck in a logging road deep in the Mississippi country, and Ficklin was found Feb. 19, 2017, by Dwayne Phillips, a deputy coroner in Smith County, Miss., who was exploring a disturbance on his property.
Phillips said he was outside at the time and his dog started barking toward a wooded area, and he walked that way and saw a man later identified as Ficklin climbing a willow tree near a pond.
“He looked like he had been through a lot of bushes and saw briars,” Phillips said Thursday. “Some of his clothes were torn.”
After Ficklin came down from the tree, he began to roll on the ground and complain about being attacked by snakes, and Phillips used his county-issued radio to notify a deputy to come to the property, where Ficklin was arrested for trespassing.