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Campaign volunteer pleads not guilty to murder charge

Monday - 3/5/2012, 9:01pm  ET

WASHINGTON - Court charging documents released Monday reveal more about a deadly fight in Southeast involving a D.C. Council campaign volunteer, now charged with murder.

In his arraignment Monday, Ellsworth Colbert, 56, of Southeast D.C., pleaded not guilty to charges of second degree murder while armed.

Wearing an un-tucked white dress shirt over a red undershirt, Colbert hung his head as the judge ordered him held without bond, reports WTOP's Andrew Mollenbeck.

D.C. police Colbert was arrested at 11 a.m. Sunday and and later charged with the death of Robert Leroy Wright, 37, also of Southeast.

Court documents state that witnesses saw Colbert engage Wright in a verbal fight in the 3600 block of Highwood Drive in Southeast, near Pope Branch Park.

The same witnesses tell Metropolitan Police they saw Colbert holding a walking stick in one had and a knife in the other. One witness says Colbert swung a knife at Wright and that the blade of the knife was covered with blood.

Witnesses also tell police Wright went to his backyard and returned with a shovel, which he tried to use to hit Colbert. The fight continued, according to witnesses, until they saw Colbert tackle Wright to the ground.

Shortly after, both Colbert and Wright stood up to walk away from each other when witnesses say they saw Wright collapse.

Police say officers found Wright suffering from stab wounds at about 10:15 a.m. Sunday. He was pronounced dead at a local hospital.

Colbert was a volunteer on the campaign of Kevin B. Chavous, a candidate running for the Ward 7 seat on the D.C. Council. In a statement, Chavous gave his condolences to Wright's family and said Colbert was "not involved in the leadership of the campaign" and did not make campaign-related decisions.

"I hope that the allegations of Mr. Colbert's involvement in this killing are false. But, if they are found to be true, he needs to face whatever justice is handed down by the court," Chavous said. "We cannot tolerate wanton acts of violence in our community."

Court documents describing Wright and Colbert's fight and aftermath

WJLA reports Colbert and Wright were neighbors, and that witnesses say the men got into an argument after a dog defecated in Colbert's yard.

Court records show Ellsworth Colbert has been charged in seven different cases since 2000. He was convicted of assault in 2010, and was charged with threatening to kidnap or injure someone in 2011.

Records show Colbert completed a diversion program in January and those charges were dismissed.

Colbert's next court appearance is on March 15.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)