Trial begins for third suspect in 2020 Christmas killing in Riverdale
OGDEN — Liam Gale, charged in a deadly 2020 Christmas Day shooting, is akin to the title character of the book “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” by Dr. Seuss, says Branden Miles, a deputy in the Weber County Attorney’s Office.
But in the case of Gale, who faces aggravated murder and attempted aggravated murder charges in the Dec. 25, 2020, incident, there’s a sinister twist. “Like a murderous Grinch, he took lives instead of presents,” Miles said Monday in opening arguments in Gale’s jury trial.
Gale’s attorney Grant Morrison, meantime, advised jurors to withhold judgement until they get the full account of what went down. Gale went to the Riverdale home of Trevor Martin and Angela Rowley — whom he knew — in search of drugs, not to kill them. “Wait until everything is in till you make up your minds,” Morrison said in his opening statement.
The trial kicked off Monday and a nine-person jury made up of five women and four men is hearing the case. Among other charges, Gale faces a count of aggravated murder in the shooting death of Martin and a count of attempted aggravated murder in the shooting of his girlfriend Rowley, who survived. He has pleaded not guilty.
The trial is scheduled to extend into mid-August, according to online court records, and Rowley took the stand first, describing the violent events of the early morning hours of Dec. 25, 2020. Two others have already been convicted and sentenced in the matter — Rayburn Bennett, who prosecutors say fired the gunshot that likely killed Martin, and Brittany Rogers. Rogers was Gale’s girlfriend and the driver of the getaway car after the violent confrontation.
Rowley said she was wrapping Christmas presents shortly after 3 a.m. when Bennett, then 16, knocked on her door. Bennett had never met Martin or Rowley and had been recruited by Gale, Miles charged, to help with a robbery at the couple’s home.
Rowley didn’t initially open the door, but followed Bennett outside after sending him away to find out what he wanted. Bennett told her he was looking for Martin to get drugs. “I said, ‘Trevor doesn’t do that.’ Then I went inside,” Rowley testified.
As she was shutting the door behind her, Bennett forced his way in, followed by Gale. As Bennett pursued Martin, Rowley tried to fend off Gale, eventually figuring out who he was though he was masked. Gale had lived with the couple for four months earlier that year, according to Morrison.
“(Gale) said, ‘Where’s Trevor. I’m going to f—— kill him,'” Rowley said. She pled with him to leave, noting that her daughter and three stepdaughters were at the home.
“I said, ‘We have kids, Liam. Get out of our home, leave us alone,'” Rowley said.
What ensued was a chaotic encounter, with Gale, armed with a 9mm handgun, firing twice on Martin and hitting him in the left arm, according to Miles. Bennett, Miles said, fired several times on Martin with his 40-caliber gun and shot Rowley in the jaw as he was fleeing. Three bullets that caused multiple wounds were ultimately removed from the body of Martin, who died at a hospital.
Bennett confessed when confronted by authorities after the incident and has cooperated with them. He has expressed remorse over the incident and was sentenced last May to 15 years to life imprisonment on each of the murder and aggravated murder counts he faced as part of a plea deal. The sentences are to be served concurrently.
Rogers was also sentenced last May after a jury found her guilty of five counts in the incident.
On the most serious count of murder — charged as a party to the incident that led to Martin’s death, though she didn’t pull the trigger of the gun that killed him — Rogers received a sentence of 15 years to life. She also received sentences of five years to life on aggravated robbery and aggravated burglary charges and one to 15 years imprisonment on an aggravated assault charge. She received one to 15 years on her fifth and final charge, obstructing justice.
Gale’s trial, overseen by Judge Camille Neider, is scheduled to continue Tuesday at the 2nd District Court building in Ogden.