Ex-high school coach guilty of murder

Ex-high school coach guilty of murder

By Dana Littlefield | U-T San Diego

SAN DIEGO — A Madison High School wrestling coach who fatally shot a Bay Park man about an hour after the two had been in a fight was convicted Friday of second-degree murder.

Jeret Thomas Needham, 43, was charged in the death of Robert Howard Colegrove, 45, who was shot in his chest as he stood the backyard of a home on Denver Street.

After deliberating about two days, the San Diego Superior Court jury acquitted Needham of first-degree murder and found him guilty of second-degree murder, with allegations that he used a gun in the incident, causing death.

Colegrove’s girlfriend, Terra Jones, testified that Needham had groped her at the Denver Street residence about four months before the Sept. 24 shooting. She said Needham was drunk at the time, and Colegrove pushed him out the door of his room inside a converted garage.

Robert Howard Colegrove. DMV photo

Robert Howard Colegrove. DMV photo

On the day of the shooting, Needham called Colegrove’s home and asked if he could come over to talk, according to the testimony. When he did, the two got into a fight. Jones said she saw Colegrove holding a stick but did not see him use it.

Needham, who was injured in the fight, left the house and returned later with a 9 mm pistol. He fired at Colegrove through a fence leading to the backyard.

A prosecutor played clips in court of Needham being interviewed by San Diego police. In them, Needham admits firing the gun.

“Honestly, I just heard his voice,” he said. “I got scared and I fired.”

Deputy District Attorney Michael MacNeil told jurors Needham had no reason to fear Colegrove, who posed no immediate threat. He said the defendant shot Colegrove through a gate that was chained so it could not open.

The prosecutor said Needham armed himself and returned to the house because he had been beaten up earlier that day, and was embarrassed and humiliated.

Defense attorney Kerry Armstrong argued Needham acted in self-defense, and may not have been thinking clearly because he hurt his head in the fight.

Needham testified he went back to the house to retrieve his eyeglasses and cellphone. While standing on the other side of the fence, he heard Colegrove say, “I’m going to kill you,” and saw him brandish a small knife.

Colegrove wore the knife in a sheath that hung from his neck. It was found underneath his body after the shooting.

The prosecutor argued that Colegrove never pulled the knife and that it likely fell out of the sheath when the body was moved.

Judge Leo Valentine, Jr. scheduled a hearing for Sept. 8, when Needham faces a possible sentence of 40 years to life in prison.



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