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Jury hears from owner of unfinished home at center of Ahmaud Arbery death trial

The courtroom spent Thursday, the trial's fifth day, hearing a deposition from Larry English.

GLYNN COUNTY, Ga. — The trial in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery on Thursday turned its focus to the owner of an unfinished home under construction in Satilla Shores, which is at the center of much of the case.

That owner, Larry English, gave a recorded deposition in September that was played in court throughout the trial's fifth day. He is not personally appearing at the trial due to health issues.

English's surveillance camera videos and calls to 911 about people coming onto his property, including Ahmaud Arbery, have become a focal point of contention in the trial. 

Defense attorneys have focused on Arbery allegedly being seen on the videos entering onto the property a number of times in the months leading up to his death and becoming in the minds of some neighbors - including the men accused of murder in the trial - a "suspect" in break-ins and thefts around the neighborhood.

RELATED: 'I think they might be trying to steal' | Homeowner's 911 call on white couple in Ahmaud Arbery death trial

Arbery was seen at the home just before father and son Greg and Travis McMichael began to pursue him through the neighborhood on Feb. 23, 2020 - with Travis ultimately shooting him in a struggle over his shotgun.

There is no evidence Arbery ever took anything or committed any damage at the home, and the owner had maintained before the trial he did not suspect Arbery of taking anything.

He echoed much of that sentiment under questioning from prosecutors Thursday. 

English said in his deposition that people would frequently come by and check out the home, at least during the daytime, and that as a general contractor it was his experience that such intrusions onto unfinished properties is relatively common.

The jury reviewed several of his surveillance videos and 911 calls after a man, believed now to be Arbery, came onto the property at night on a number of occasions.

The videos generally showed the man passing through parts of the unfinished home or property without touching anything, nor did he ever have anything like a bag or backpack to carry stuff in.

"Do you remember anything being taken that night," prosecutors asked English after one of the videos was played.

"No," he said.

"See this gentleman with anything in his hands?"

"No."

"Or on his person?"

"No."

Conversely, a video was played of a white couple entering onto the property with what appeared to be a bag at one point, and a 911 call following their entrance onto the property featured English saying he thought, "they might be trying to steal" something.

RELATED: 'We don't want any more Black pastors coming in here' | Courtroom rift over Al Sharpton sitting with Ahmaud Arbery family

In a second call, he said he thinks the couple is who stole items out of his offshore fishing boat that was on the property. English said in his deposition that about $2,500 of electronic equipment, as well as a Yeti cooler, was taken out of the boat sometime in 2019.

"I know that first time they went in and stole," he said, with some of the rest of his call muffled.

A lengthy cross-examination by the defense focused in on English's suspicions - expressed through phone calls to police and in text messages with officers and neighbors - about the man, believed to be Arbery, seen in his videos.

Part of the argument the defense laid out is that English's suspicions filtered out to neighbors - including the McMichaels - helping create a feeling things were "on edge" in the community, as they argued in their opening statement.

"Oct. 25, this man who comes at 10 o'clock at night, he looks suspicious to you right," defense lawyer Robert Rubin asked English.

"Yes."

"There was no reason - no legitimate reason in your mind - for him to be on your property that late at night, 'plundering around' as you put it?"

"No."

Rubin painted a picture of English - who would stay at a camper on the unfinished property, sometimes with his teen children - as concerned "not only for the property in the house but the safety of your child."

He also argued that, while the man seen in the videos had never been known to take anything, no surveillance video of any kind from the property ever showed a theft at any point.

The trial was also marked at midday by an unexpected objection about Al Sharpton's presence in the courtroom a day earlier, as a guest sitting with the Arbery family.

The defense lawyer for the third man being tried for murder, William "Roddie" Bryan, exclaimed "we don't want any more Black pastors coming in here" as he argued Sharpton's presence inside court could be "political" and "intimidating."