Man on trial for double murder questions co-defendant in the case

CLEVELAND - A co-defendant in the robbery and murder of a couple inside their Collinwood car dealership took the stand as a witness for the prosecution Thursday during the murder trial of Joesph McAlpin and faced questions from McAlpin, who is representing himself.

Andrew Keener, 25, testified that he agreed to take part in a plot to steal vehicles from Mr. Cars in April 2017 in exchange for cash and drugs and didn't know anyone was killed for several days after the crime.

"I didn't even know somebody was robbed. All I thought was it was a break-in and keys and titles stolen," Keener said. "I didn't know nothing about a murder or robbery or nothing."

Prosecutors said McAlpin masterminded the crime and shot and killed Michael Kuznik and Trina Tomola-Kuznik inside the business.

McAlpin was indicted on 25 charges including aggravated murder and faces the death penalty if convicted.

Keener was also charged with aggravated murder but agreed to plead guilty and testify for the prosecution in exchange for reduced charges of involuntary manslaughter and grand theft.

Keener told jurors that he is "not perfect" and a "thief."

"I'm not going to lie," Keener testified. "Because I gotta do something, not only for myself, but for the people's family that got hurt."

Keener testified that he dropped out of high school and stole to support his addiction to drugs including meth and heroin. He testified that he was friends with a third co-defendant, McAlpin's brother, Jerome Diggs.

Keener said Diggs, 24, asked him to participate in the robbery of Mr. Cars, and McAlpin, Diggs and Keener all traveled in a car together to carry it out. He testified that he and Diggs waited down the street from the dealership while McAlpin went inside and that he only stepped onto the lot to drive a stolen Mercedes away after McAlpin called him.

Keener testified that McAlpin then followed behind him in a stolen BMW. Keener said Diggs was waiting down the street and took over driving the Mercedes.

He testified they left the stolen cars at two locations on the Cleveland's west side.

Keener told jurors he did not go to police and initially lied to investigators because he was afraid for his life and the lives of his family members, since the other suspects were still not in custody.

"Right now I'm telling the truth," Keener testified. "I don't got no reason to lie."

Keener faced cross-examination from McAlpin, who attempted to point out Keener's earlier lies to investigators.

"You didn't have no reason to lie in the beginning," McAlpin said.

"I did. I was scared," Keener said.

"Scared of what?"

"You. And your family."

"Why was you scared of my family?"

"Because if you just did those innocent people like that you would do somebody else like that," Keener said.

Keener is scheduled to be sentenced on April 29.

Diggs was indicted on multiple charges including aggravated murder and is involved in ongoing plea negotiations with prosecutors, according to court records.

Continuing coverage of this case and trial, here.

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