Taking stand in DC murder trial, sister recalls 10-year-old’s final moments after gang shooting

The older sister of a 10-year-old girl, who was gunned down in 2018 after returning from an ice cream truck, took the stand Tuesday during the trial of six men charged in the killing.

Nyjhay Lewis, who was 18 at the time of the shooting, described for the jury how she and her younger sister Makiyah Wilson spent their last carefree hours of July 16, 2018: Going to H.D. Woodson Pool in Northeast D.C. with their god-sister and then returning home to their apartment complex in the Clay Terrace neighborhood.

Lewis testified that later that evening, as Wilson was preparing to play the online video game Fortnite, the girls went to an ice cream truck in the neighborhood to get a pickled egg with sunflower seeds, a popular summer snack. The sisters had returned home and were sitting on their front steps when Lewis recalled seeing a black car pull up and then hearing a barrage of gunshots.

“It was so loud and it was so many, I didn’t want to get hit in the head,” Lewis testified, describing how she and her sister ducked down and how she attempted to shield Wilson’s head with her arm.

When Assistant U.S. Attorney Lindsey Merikas asked, “Where was Makiyah?” Lewis broke down into sobs.

makiyah wilson
Makiyah Wilson, 10, was gunned down July 16, 2018,  in the Northeast D.C. Clay Terrace neighborhood. (Courtesy NBC Washington)

“She was in my arms,” she said, testifying that she and her sister and some of the other people who had been sitting in front of the apartments in lawn chairs and on benches tumbled inside the apartment door.

Lewis testified her younger sister stood up, holding her chest and then collapsed. “Police took her from my arms,” said Lewis, who suffered a gunshot wound to the arm in the shooting.

Lewis’ testimony was interrupted several times by repeated objections from defense attorneys for the six men charged in the killing.

The six defendants are Marquell Cobbs; Darrise Jeffers; Quentin Michals; Isaiah Murchison; Gregory Taylor; and Qujuan Thomas. All are being tried on conspiracy, murder, firearm possession, assault and gang charges.

Prosecutors have said the six men are affiliated with the Wellington Park Crew street gang and that the outburst of gunfire that killed Wilson was a gang retaliation shooting.

Two other defendants are set to go on trial separately in May.

During Tuesday’s proceedings, defense attorneys also objected to prosecutors playing the full body camera footage of one of the officers who rendered aid to Wilson.

In the end, Judge Robert Okun allowed jurors to see two still photographs from the body camera of Officer Kelvin Smith, showing Lewis and Wilson’s mother on either side of the girl, holding her hands, as she lay mortally wounded on the apartment floor.

In opening statements last week, defense attorneys emphasized gaps in the prosecution’s case and what they said was a lack of hard evidence tying their clients to the killing.

Defense attorneys have also tried to establish that several other D.C. street gangs from other neighborhoods were “beefing” with the Clay Terrace neighborhood at the time of the shooting.

During Lewis’ testimony Tuesday, one of the defense attorneys tried to point to potential inconsistencies in her testimony compared to prior testimony before a grand jury related to the neighborhood’s rivalries with other groups.

“I think they were trying to confuse the jurors,” said Pandora Wilson, the girls’ grandmother, speaking to reporters outside D.C. Superior Court.

Of her granddaughter’s testimony, she said, “It’s hard. It’s heartbreaking. You know, my baby’s not here. She can’t speak for herself. So, you know, her sister has to. I don’t think anybody wants to be in that position. But you have to.”

The trial is expected to last into mid-May.

Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

Jack Moore

Jack Moore joined WTOP.com as a digital writer/editor in July 2016. Previous to his current role, he covered federal government management and technology as the news editor at Nextgov.com, part of Government Executive Media Group.

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