CINCINNATI – The prosecutor blamed gang members for intimidating witnesses and allowing a killer to go free. But Rico Mosley's attorney said the jury got it right.
"Notwithstanding sympathy and notwithstanding emotion, they made the right decision and that was difficult for the jury," defense attorney Clyde Bennett III said Monday after Mosley, now 20, was found not guilty of shooting 17-year-old Kelsie Crow outside a Sweet 16 party two years ago.
"It's extremely disappointing for the Kelsie Crow family. They are devastated," prosecutor Seth Tieger said.
But the prosecution did not prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt, the jury said in its verdict.
"The gangs are effective in that they intimidated the witnesses. They've got guns. They aren't afraid to use them," Tieger said. "The witnesses live in the same neighborhood as the defendant and the people with the weapons, so· that's intimidation factor - that the witnesses have to go home and live in the same neighborhood as the people threatening them."
Crow was shot in the head in her car outside the Melrose YMCA in Walnut Hills in April 2015. She was trying to drive away when rival gang members started shooting at each other and she was hit, police said. Two other people were wounded.
From the opening statements, Bennett claimed prosecutors didn’t have any physical evidence – no gun, no DNA – to prove that Mosley shot Crow. Police said they found 60 shell casings at the scene and that they came from four or five guns.
One witness said she saw Mosley firing shots at the scene. But another person who was supposed to testify to seeing Mosley shooting was threatened with retaliation and refused to take the stand, the prosecutor said. That witness was jailed after several days on the run. Judge Patrick Foley III said he was aware of threats against several witnesses.
Other witnesses and 911 callers described it as a drive-by shooting and said occupants in a white van sprayed the area with bullets. But none identified Mosley.
"There was no evidence pointing to my son that he did it," Rico Mosley Sr. said after the verdict.
Mosley Sr. said police still need to find Crow's killer.
"The evidence showed that it was someone else," Mosley said. "They should have went in that direction They didn't do that family no justice by saying Rico did it. My heart goes out to that family."
RELATED: Kelsie Crow's mother, passenger in Kelsie's car testify about the night she died
Mosley didn't testify, but his family professed his innocence.
Midway through the eight-day trial, Mosley's uncle, Stephan Pryor, told WCPO that Mosley turned down a plea deal that carried a 13-year sentence.
“How did a guy turn down 13 years of his life? Because he knew he was not guilty,” Pryor said.
Crow was a junior at Purcell Marian High School and a soccer goalie. She had planned to become a nurse, her mother testified.