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Auburn killings suspect appears in court

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 1:28 PM EDT, Thu June 14, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: "The hearing was very brief and Leonard did not enter a plea," the court clerk says
  • The shooting suspect turned himself in Tuesday after police did not apprehend him
  • Two others have been charged with hindering the prosecution
  • 3 people, including 2 former football players, were killed in a shooting near Auburn University

(CNN) -- The man suspected of killing three people and wounding others near Auburn University made his first appearance in court Thursday, two days after turning himself in.

Desmonte Leonard, 22, faces three counts of capital murder and two counts of assault, said Auburn Police Chief Tommy Dawson.

"The hearing was very brief and Leonard did not enter a plea," Lee County, Alabama, Circuit Court Clerk Corrine Hurst said.

The suspect spoke only in response to questions from the judge, including providing his address, Hurst said.

The suspect turned himself in to U.S. marshals at the federal courthouse in Montgomery hours after a small army of law enforcement officers swarmed a Montgomery home where he was believed to be hiding and came up empty-handed.

Multiple victims in Auburn shooting

Police surrounded and searched the house for more than six hours Tuesday, spraying "a powerful dose" of tear gas in hopes of flushing out the man.

Police believed Leonard was in the house after receiving three calls indicating he was in the area; the third was from a woman who owned the house. She said she returned from work to find a man who looked like the suspect sitting on her couch, said Montgomery Mayor Tommy Strange.

Two other men have been jailed on charges of hindering prosecution in the case.

Auburn police said one of those arrested, Jeremy Thomas, 18, left the scene of the shootings with Leonard. Montgomery police say Gabriel Thomas, 41, tried to mislead investigators during the search, and they arrested him Sunday at the request of U.S. Marshals.

Saturday night's shootings took place at an off-campus apartment complex in Auburn, about 50 miles east of Montgomery. The dead included two former Auburn football players. A current football player was among the wounded.

Arriving officers found Edward Christian, 20, dead at the scene.

Christian, of Valdosta, Georgia, was off the football team because of an injury, Dawson said. Former player Ladarious Phillips, 20, and Auburn resident Demario Pitts, 20, died later at a hospital, he said.

Two others, including current Auburn sophomore offensive lineman Eric Mack, 20, of Cameron, South Carolina, and another man, Xavier Moss, 19, were treated and released from a medical facility.

A third man, John Robertson, 20, was in critical condition after being shot in the head.

Witness Turquorius Vines told CNN affiliate WGCL the violence was sudden.

"It went from us chilling with all these females to a massacre for no reason at all," he said.

CNN's Joe Sutton, Moni Basu, David Mattingly, Greg Morrison and Ashley Hayes contributed to this report.

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