COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Witness testimony has begun in the murder trial of former Columbus Police vice officer Andrew Mitchell.
Mitchell is charged with murder and voluntary manslaughter for the August 2018 shooting death of 23-year-old Donna Castleberry.
The first witness called by the prosecution was Columbus police officer Matthew McDaniel. McDaniel responded to an officer in trouble call and went to the scene where he found Mitchell.
McDaniel’s body camera footage of his response to the scene was shown to the courtroom along with photos from the scene, including images of the knife Castleberry used to allegedly stab Mitchell in the moments that led to the shooting.
McDaniel testified that he thought Castleberry was dead when he arrived at the scene as she preserved the scene, per protocol. Five minutes into the video, you can see paramedics arriving and detecting a pulse on Castleberry.
The second witness called was CPD detective Lara Evans, who also did undercover work. She worked with Mitchell on the day Castleberry died and considers him a “friend.”
Prosecution and defense went through group text messages between Evans, Mitchell, and other CPD officers. Defense attorney Mark Collins questioned Evans on various procedures for undercover operations, including if she carried a badge while posing as a prostitute.
Evans testified it was CPD policy for vice officers to not carry a badge while working undercover.
“I don’t know of anything that’s happened that, you know, would constitute a murder charge at this point.” said Evans. “I mean, if something was known to me that’s true, Andy [Mitchell] knows I’d be the first person to slam my door shut.”
After a lunch break, the prosecution called CPD homicide detective Greg Sheppard as its third witness. Sheppard was part of the investigation of the scene after the shooting.
Opening statements for the trial were made Tuesday starting with Sheryl Prichard, an assistant prosecutor for Franklin County who played parts of the audio recording of the encounter between Mitchell and Castleberry before she died.
Defense attorney Kaitlyn Stephens said in her opening statement that evidence brought forth by the state will contradict the case against Mitchell, particularly the video synced with the audio of the encounter.
Castleberry was shot and killed by Mitchell during what was originally described as an undercover prostitution operation. Police said Mitchell was attempting to take Castleberry into custody inside of an unmarked vehicle in the area of Bellows Avenue and South Yale Avenue.
According to police, Castleberry stabbed Mitchell in the hand in the moments leading up to the shooting. Court documents state Castleberry thought the attack was an attempted kidnapping and rape since Mitchell did not present a badge and was wearing plain clothes at the time.Family of Donna Castleberry sues CPD, former officer for wrongful death.
Mitchell claims the shooting of Castleberry was in self-defense.
Mitchell has been held in federal custody pending an unrelated case in which he is accused of forcing women to have sex with him to avoid arrest.
The former vice officer faces life in prison if convicted of the murder charge. If convicted of involuntary manslaughter, Mitchell could be sentenced to between three and 11 years in prison.