Attorney: Ware robbed, but didn't kill Vernon Forrest

DeMario Ware admitted to robbing boxer Vernon Forrest at gunpoint, but is not guilty of murder, his attorney said Wednesday afternoon in Fulton County Superior Court. But the prosecution contends that since Ware participated in the crime that led to Forrest's death, he is guilty.

Ware, one of three men charged with Forrest's murder, is the first suspect to face trial in the July 2009 shooting death of the boxer. Forrest, 38, was shot to death near a southwest Atlanta gas station in what began as an armed robbery as he attempted to put air in the tires of his black Jaguar.

Ware, 22, has admitted to police that on the night of July 25, 2009, he demanded Forrest give him his championship ring and diamond Rolex watch, and then ran, according to opening statements from both sides.

Forrest, who had a gun, chased Ware and fired a shot but missed. Ware outran Forrest, who then turned to walk back to the gas station on Whitehall Street.

As Forrest was returning to the gas station, he was approached by Charman Sinkfield, according to Tony Johnson, Fulton County assistant district attorney. Forrest walked away and Sinkfield fired multiple gunshots, striking Forrest seven times, Johnson said Wednesday. That weapon, a .40 caliber Glock, was never found.

A third suspect, Jquante Crews, served as the getaway driver, picking up both Ware and Sinkfield and driving away, Johnson said.

Ware should be found guilty of murder for participating in the heist, which resulted in Forrest's death, Johnson told the jury. If convicted, Ware faces life in prison without parole.

"Demario Ware admitted to robbing Vernon Forrest, putting a 9 mm to his face," Johnson said. "He says it happened."

Surveillance cameras at the convenience store and at a nearby apartment building showed Ware fleeing from Forrest. Ware eventually ran into the apartments, where a security camera caught his face, and later showed him getting into a red car. Atlanta police officers released the images of the suspect's face to the media, and nine days after Forrest was killed, Ware turned himself in.

"Demario did take responsibility for what he did," Michael Mann, Ware's attorney, told the jury. "He's going to take the stand and tell you he robbed Vernon Forrest. But he is not responsible for the murder of Vernon Forrest."

Forrest's mother, Mildred Forrest, told the jury her son was supposed to come to her home the night he was shot, but never arrived. A 12-year-old boy, a godson of Vernon Forrest, was with the boxer the night of the shooting. The boy, who lives in Houston but was visiting Atlanta at the time, testified that he saw Forrest being robbed, but did not see him get shot.

"He was like a father to me," the boy said of the boxer.

The Augusta-native Forrest, nicknamed "The Viper" because of his quickness, won two 2002 decisions over Shane Mosley, the previously unbeaten 147-pound champ. Forrest was 41-3 with 29 KOs in his career.

Crews and Sinkfield are both awaiting trials.