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Where was Rocky's rifle in shootout?

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By The Staff

By TERRI LIKENS

rceditor@bellsouth.net

Where was Rocky Houston's high-powered rifle when a police cruiser swung into the parking area in front of his brother's house on May 11, 2006?

It's an important question for jurors who have to decide whether Houston was acting in self-defense in the shootout that ensued.

However, the answers from defense witnesses at Rocky's double-murder trial have not been definitive.

Rocky's daughter, Rachel, who was 18 at the time, testified Monday that she saw her father carrying his rifle, but with it loosely balanced across his arm.

Tobey Yates was one of the people on the porch when the shootout began that resulted in the deaths of Roane County Sheriff's Deputy Bill Jones and his ride-along friend, Mike Brown.

He said he remembered seeing the rifle leaning on the porch, but said he doesn't believe Rocky had it when he started walking toward the police vehicle.

Rachel Houston's testimony also differed from that of Mildred Anne Watts, another person on Leon Houston's porch when the shooting began.

Rachel, who was passing the house on the way to pick up a graduation gift from a relative, said she saw someone who was not in uniform outside the cruiser with a gun drawn.

“He was crouched behind the hood of the car,” Rachel said.

Watts, who testified last week, said Brown fired the first shot from inside the cruiser.

Rachel said the scene scared her so badly that she backed away, almost wrecking her car.

Rachel said earlier in the day, nothing about her father had seemed out of the ordinary.

“He was just sitting there on the porch, reading the Bible,” she said.

“He was a good dad,” she said. “He still is.”

Nancy Houston, Rachel's mother and Rocky's wife, was sitting in the courtroom audience as her daughter testified.

Nancy wiped her eyes, and even used the jacket hood of the person sitting next to her to dab away her tears.

Juanita Johnson, known to friends and family by her childhood nickname, “Bug Ann,” also took the stand.

She described hearing shots, looking out the window and seeing the cruiser in front of Leon Houston's house and running through the house in a panic.

“I got real scared. Scared to death,” she said.

A short time later Rocky and Leon, who is being tried separately, were at her house.

“They were just beating for their life on my door,” she said.

Leon, she said, “threw his arms around my neck and said, 'Rocky's been shot,'” she said.

Rocky hobbled in, soaked in blood, she said.

“He said, 'Come here, Bug Ann, and see where I'm shot,” she testified.

But Johnson said the scene was just too much for her.

“I can't,” she said she replied. “I'm about to faint.

After her husband drove away with the brothers to seek medical treatment for Rocky, she locked her doors and went to her daughter's house nearby.

There, she had a brief conversation with her daughter, who was on the phone with 911, Johnson said.

“I just run into the guest bedroom and I just jumped into the bed and cried my eyes out,” she said.

Her daughter asked if she was all right.

“I'll never be all right,” Johnson said she replied.

She said Rachel and Cody, Rocky and Nancy Houston's son, also came over and crawled into bed with her.

“We laid there and prayed and cried all night,” she said.

Johnson took on a tone of contempt when she described what police did before tear-gassing her house after her daughter let them in later that night.

She said they broke windows, used the butts of their guns to break off smoke alarms and “scratched through important papers.”

The cleaning bill was $7,000, she said, and many other items were thrown away because they could not be salvaged.

“I'd like this court to know I've turned those people over to God,” she said.