February 15, 2018 11:15:20 AM
The victim in a kidnapping, armed robbery and sexual battery case told a Lowndes County jury Wednesday that when Autravious Gaston kidnapped her at gunpoint and drove her to West Point three years ago, her only goal was survival.
It was the first day of witness testimony in the trial of Gaston, 36, who faces two counts each of kidnapping, armed robbery and sexual battery, as well as grand larceny. Gaston is accused of robbing the Sprint Mart on Military Road in the early morning of Feb. 11, 2015, forcing two employees into the back room of the store at gunpoint, sexually assaulting them and then driving one of them to West Point in a stolen car.
The victim who was driven to West Point told the jury on the way, he sexually assaulted her several more times, twice pulling the car over and once while he was still driving.
"When you're in that situation, you don't know what you're going to do," the witness said on the stand.
Once they reached West Point city limits, she said, she finally convinced Gaston to let her go.
"I honestly have no idea (how I convinced him)," she said. "I assume I was calm.
"I got out of the car and I just ran as fast as I possibly could," she added.
During cross examination, Gaston's attorney, Steve Wallace, questioned why the victim didn't grab the gun or run when she had the chance. He pointed out she testified Gaston pulled the car over twice and that she had to get out of the car to do what he said. Wallace also pointed out that when Gaston assaulted her in the car, based on her testimony, she would have to have been leaning over the gun.
But the witness said Gaston always had the gun in or close to his hand.
"I was too frightened," she said. "... I was just too frightened."
At one point, the vehicle pulled into a Texaco gas station where Gaston got out of the car to pump gas, the witness said. Though the witness made eye contact with a Texaco employee, she said she was still too afraid to grab the gun -- which Gaston left in the car with her -- or call to the employee for help. It wasn't until after Gaston got back in the car and drove away from the Texaco that she somehow convinced him to let her go, she said, though she didn't remember the conversation they had.
"It was just by the grace of God, that's all I know," she said.
The Dispatch does not identify victims of sex crimes.
Prosecutor Lindsay Clemons also called to the stand Keith Patmon, the owner of the car Gaston is accused of stealing and driving to West Point in, and West Point investigator Albert Lee, who arrested Gaston at an apartment complex a few hours after the robbery after the resident of the apartment Gaston was hiding in told police Gaston was inside.
Patmon said while he knew Gaston, he certainly didn't know him well enough to let him borrow his car.
"I don't let nobody (take my car)," he said. "...I don't play like that."
He said Gaston was only in the car because he had flagged Patmon down before the robbery and asked if Patmon could drive him to the store. Patmon made a stop at a friend's house first, and when he came out of the house, the car was gone.
He, the kidnapping victim and Lee all identified the vehicle Gaston drove as a 2005 Mercury Grand Marquis.
Witness testimony in the case continues today.
1. Vibrant Church's $14M expansion nearly complete COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY
3. CPD will go longer without an assistant chief COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY
4. Christmas Co-op offers second wave of support to needy families STARKVILLE & OKTIBBEHA COUNTY
5. Fire rating could reduce home insurance rates COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY