Target of Birmingham shooting that killed an innocent 62-year-old woman who was shot and killed a year later, prosecutors say in a capital murder trial

A grief-stricken Birmingham woman recounted the final moments before her 62-year-old sister was killed nearly two years ago in a deadly crossfire on Tuesday.

Valarie Young told jurors in a Jefferson County courtroom that she and her sister, Brenda Lee Jordan, had just delivered communion and were on their way to pick up a cake when Young took a wrong turn that turned would prove fatal.

The two sisters passed a funeral home on First Avenue North, where a friend of theirs had been taken after she died of illness.

Jordan glanced around the building and said, “Goodbye, my friend,” when the unthinkable happened.

“Next thing I know, a shot came through the window and blew his head off,” Young said.

Young burst into tears, and ultimately Jefferson County Circuit Judge Teresa Pulliam briefly retired.

Young was the first witness to testify in the capital murder trial of Lovelle Travis, 29, who is charged with Jordan’s murder.

The shooting took place at 4:09 p.m. on Saturday, June 6, 2020, in the 6700 block of First Avenue North in East Lake.

Authorities said the Travis was firing at another vehicle when those bullets hit Jordan instead.

The target of the shooting – Cornelius Hilliard – escaped injury that day but was shot dead in September 2021 when gunfire erupted at the men’s clothing store Superior for Men in the city’s east end.

Prosecutors said Tuesday that transcripts of statements he provided to police before his death would serve as testimony in the case against Travis.

Brenda Lee Jordan, 62, was killed on Saturday June 6, 2020 when she was shot while driving in East Birmingham. (Contributed)

Jefferson County Assistant District Attorneys Kandice Pickett and Jason Wilson are prosecuting the case.

Attorney Emory Anthony is representing Travis, who has been held without bail at the Jefferson County Jail since his arrest in September 2020.

In his opening statements, Pickett said testimony will show Hilliard told police he was driving on or near Division Avenue when a bluish-gray Toyota Corolla pulled up behind him and began shooting.

“The passenger leaned over with a long rifle, firing rifle bullets into Cornelius Hilliard’s car,” Pickett said. “Cornelius Hilliard went to First Avenue North trying to get away.”

Surveillance video from a nearby business captured the shooting.

“What you’ll see is a vehicle stopped at this stop sign, you’ll see the passenger get out of the car with a long gun and fire shots on first avenue north where Cornelius Hilliard’s car is moving .”

It was moments later, Pickett said, that Young “heard a pop and his sister was dead.”

“She pulls into the first gas station she can get to and tries to get help,” Pickett said of Young, “but she knew (her sister) was gone.”

The testimony would show, the prosecutor said, that a U.S. Postal Service carrier witnessed the shooting and immediately stopped to tell police what she saw.

Two months later, the postman spotted the blue-grey Corolla again and called a detective to say she was following the vehicle which ultimately led to Travis’ arrest.

The suspicious car, Pickett said, was traced to the mother of one of Travis’ friends, Johnathan Payne.

Evidence will show, she said, that Payne lent Travis his mother’s car that day, which was returned hours later with a bullet hole in the windshield.

Lovell Travis

Lovell Travis (Birmingham Jail)

Pickett told jurors there was no doubt that an intentional killing took place and that the killing was capital murder because the fatal shot was fired from a vehicle and into a vehicle.

“The only question in this case is whether or not Lovelle Travis was involved,” Pickett said.

“At the end of this trial, I think you will be satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that Lovelle Travis is guilty of capital murder for shooting from a vehicle and capital murder for shooting into a vehicle. “

Anthony, however, said his client pleaded not guilty to the capital murder charges.

“There will be no testimony from anyone saying that this young man fired a gun that day,” the lawyer said.

Anthony told jurors that Payne would not tell the truth on the witness stand.

“We think the evidence will be that Johnathan Payne waited almost a month and a half, until the police came for him, to come up with a story,” Anthony said.

He also said the bluish-gray Corolla suspected in the shooting was never processed for fingerprints or DNA because “we don’t know where the car is.”

“At the end of this trial you will see that no one can identify my client and my client has an alibi that he was at home working on his car,” Anthony said. “I don’t know why Johnathan Payne is lying, other than his involvement in this case, but it will be the truth.”

“Once you hear of the lack of evidence, that my client didn’t shoot and he wasn’t the one who shot there,” he said, “we’re going to ask you to state that. not guilty because in fact he is not guilty.”

First Avenue North Homicide June 6, 2020

A woman in her 60s was fatally shot on Saturday June 6, 2020 while riding in a vehicle on First Avenue North in East Birmingham. Police said she was caught in the crossfire during a shootout.

Both the postman and Payne spoke on the first day of the trial.

The postwoman said she had just gotten off work and was driving on First Avenue when the shooting happened at the intersection a few feet away from her. She said the shooter had what looked like an AK-47 but said she didn’t see the shooter well.

“The video shows it happened in two seconds, but in my mind it was like five minutes, in slow motion,” the witness said. She said she immediately turned around and went back to the crime scene to talk to police.

About a month later, while on her postal journey, she saw the vehicle again. She recognized it from its bluish gray color and a tinted cover over the license plate. She was able to get a partial tag number and immediately called the detective.

Payne testified that he and Travis were friends who went to school together, although Travis was younger than Payne.

Before beginning his testimony, prosecutors reviewed his criminal history — robbery convictions, burglary, certain people prohibited from possessing a firearm and possessing a controlled object — which the defense said they would address. in an attempt to discredit Payne’s testimony.

Payne said he hasn’t had any legal issues since 2019 and is now a licensed truck driver.

On June 6, 2020, he was with Lovell Travis, and they were in Payne’s mother’s Toyota Corolla. They had made several stops, eventually meeting up at a friend’s house in Payne. Travis asked him to take him to Walmart, but Payne’s foot was hurting so he let Travis take his mother’s car. “I trusted him,” Payne said.

When Travis returned, he was in the passenger seat and another man was driving. There was a bullet hole in the windshield.

Payne said he asked Travis what happened and said Travis and the other man put guns in his face and said, “That I better not tell anybody. otherwise they would kill me and my family.”

Travis, he said, was the biggest talker. “Me and my family were scared to death.”

He said they ended up moving because they feared for their lives.

The trial is ongoing and about two dozen people are expected to be called as witnesses.

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