By Will E Sanders
TROY — Patrick McGail was the “ringleader and mastermind” of the Halloween eve home invasion and murder of Nathan Wintrow, according to two co-defendants who testified against the alleged murderer during the third day of the trial in common pleas court on Thursday.
Yet the defense for McGail, 18, of Troy, maintains a Troy drug dealer was the true ringleader in the death of Wintrow, 20, who was shot in the head Oct. 30, 2013, in front of his girlfriend and best friend in the laundry room of the 218 E. Canal St., Troy, residence he shared with his 2-year-old daughter.
McGail is standing trial this week and has been charged with murder, aggravated robbery and aggravated burglary, along with firearm specifications. He maintains his innocence.
Co-defendants Jason C. Sowers, 17, and Brendon A. Terrel, 19, both of Troy, took the witness stand and described not only the parts they played in the murder, but also the part McGail played. But the defense continually reminded the jury that both men lied to police several times in the past and attempted to impeach the credibility of each co-defendant.
Thirty-two text messages between Sowers and McGail on the day of the murder revealed McGail came up with a plan to rob Wintrow, a known drug dealer, of money and marijuana. Sowers testified McGail called the practice “dealer hunting,” which Sowers described as robbing a drug dealer of cash and product.
“The plan was we were going to bring baseball bats into the house and take everything,” Sowers said, only that plan changed when it was agreed that firearms would be used instead of bats. He also said McGail wanted to “brand” Wintrow with a wire coat hanger to mark Wintrow as a drug dealer, though that never transpired.
Sowers and McGail went into the home wearing Halloween masks after breaking a window and entering through a locked door, but then they were met by Wintrow, his girlfriend and best friend. A struggle ensued that ended with Sowers firing the fatal shot from a 9mm pistol.
“Patrick, he is the one who came up with the plan,” Terrel, who served as a would-be look-out, testified under direct examination.
Sowers and Terrel have already been convicted for their parts in the Wintrow murder through a plea agreement that stipulated their “substantial assistance” in the case, including their truthful testimony against McGail at trial.
The co-defendants were caught within minutes of the murder, and within the hour McGail emerged on the doorstep of his then-girlfriend, Jessica Shelton, 18, of Troy, according to testimony.
Shelton testified before the jury of six men and six women that McGail came to her home on the night of the murder and acted “jittery,” which was an unusual change from his normally “calm” disposition.
“He seemed upset, like something was wrong,” she said. “He seemed scared and nervous.”
She testified McGail had injuries to his nose, wrist and back. When questioned by her, McGail eventually told her he sustained the injuries while he was inside of Wintrow’s house after he and Sowers went inside and “a fight broke out.”
Shelton said McGail informed her that he fled the scene after he heard a lone gunshot, leaving behind his mask and his knife in the process.
The very same mask and knife contained McGail’s DNA, testified Hallie Garofalo, a forensic chemist with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigations.
She testified DNA analysis on the mask revealed McGail could not be excluded as the source and listed a frequency of occurrence that equaled one in 772 quadrillion. DNA found on the knife blade revealed a frequency of occurrence at one in 13 trillion.
Other testimony came from a deputy corner and forensic pathologist, Dr. Lee Lehman, who conducted the autopsy on Wintrow, and stated that Wintrow died from a gunshot wound to the head at point-blank range.
Additional testimony also was heard from a forensic firearms expert and a Troy police officer who handled a complaint six days before the murder involving McGail and his co-defendants as they sat in a car outside of a Troy pizzeria. The officer testified that all three teens had the same masks, styled after the movie “V for Vendetta,” used in the commission of the crime on that night.
The trial is expected to go into next week.
McGail, out on bond, was 17 at the time of the murder and he, along with Sowers, are both being tried as adults.
It remains unknown if McGail will take to the witness stand in his own defense.
Will E Sanders may be reached at 773-2721 or on Twitter @TheDailyCall.