Friends testify how drug deal gone bad led to fatal shooting near Dayton Mall

Former high school classmates testified their planned Homecoming date — now accused of murder — pulled a gun on Jayren Graham before the homicide victim was shot in a struggle with a gun police have not found.

On Sept. 13, the former West Carrollton High School seniors said they were with the defendant and Graham, who authorities said died after a late-night drug deal gone bad outside the DoubleTree Suites by Hilton, where Graham worked near the Dayton Mall.

The two girls – 17-year-olds who describe themselves as longtime best friends – gave similar accounts of the short exchange and struggle between Graham and the defendant, the latter whom they both planned to accompany to Homecoming that weekend.

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“Jayren was pulling out his weed, and (the defendant) pulled out his gun and told him to give him all of his weed,” one of the girls testified in Montgomery County Juvenile Court on Monday.

“It happened really fast,” the other female said.

The two testified in a hearing to decide if the defendant, a 17-year-old who lived in Moraine before the shooting, will be tried as an adult. He faces multiple counts – including four murder charges – in the fatal shooting of Graham, a Miami Twp. resident.

County Prosecutor Mat Heck Jr. is seeking to transfer the defendant’s case to adult court. The teen has a lengthy juvenile record dating back about three years.

Both witnesses said they did not know the defendant had a gun that night, the first time he met Graham. The two were with the defendant before 9 p.m. when they met Graham at the hotel to buy marijuana, they said.

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During the sale, Graham left one of his cell phones in the defendant’s car, according to their testimony. That prompted the defendant and the girls to return to hotel after 10 p.m. with the promise that Graham would give them marijuana for their efforts, they said.

After returning to the DoubleTree, both girls said they were in the defendant’s car with him and Graham when the gun was pulled and pointed at Graham. Both said a struggled ensued, resulting in the defendant and Graham wrestling in the back seat before both spilled out the passenger side door and wrestled on the ground.

“They were fighting and I heard a gunshot,” one of the teens testified.

Neither of the witnesses said they saw who fired the gun. And, one teen said, the defendant denied shooting Graham.

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However, both said after the shooting, the defendant told them to get in his car, throw both of Graham’s cell phones out the window and “he wanted to make sure we weren’t going to say anything,” one girl said.

The next day, one of the teens said, the defendant dumped the gun somewhere in New Lebanon, where he had recently moved. And she testified she initially gave police a false account of the shooting, telling them Graham pulled the gun.

When Miami Twp. police later questioned the defendant, he told authorities he was not involved in the shooting, Detective Todd Comer testified Monday.

“He denied being at the DoubleTree hotel,” Comer said. “He denied buying any weed. He denied having a gun. He denied knowing anything about the incident.”

Juvenile Court Judge Anthony Capizzi said he would issue a written ruling on the prosecution’s transfer request.

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