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Defense claims police arrested wrong man as murder trial begins

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Defense claims police arrested wrong man as murder trial begins



An Ann Arbor man who authorities say known figure in Washtenaw County's drug trafficking scene, Monday went on trial for murder, while his defense attorney claimed police had the wrong man.

Carlos “Fluffy” Rivera, 25, is charged in the March 11 shotgun slaying of Lenson J. Mays, 39, of Ypsilanti Township. Mays was shot as he entered a house at 338 Orchard St. in Ypsilanti, inadvertently interrupting an armed robbery.

A jury of nine women and four men began hearing testimony in the courtroom of Washtenaw Circuit Judge Ross W. Campbell.

Assistant Prosecutor Lynwood Noah told the jury that the robbery victim, David Williams, and his girlfriend positively identified Rivera as one of the robbers, picking him out in photo and actual line-ups.

But Robert West, assistant public defender representing Rivera, said Williams’ testimony lacks credibility, adding that he would produce evidence that Rivera was elsewhere at the time of the robbery-shooting incident.

Williams, who took the stand Monday afternoon, said Rivera, armed with a sawed-off shotgun, and another man came to his door and announced a stickup, ordering him to lie down on the floor. As they took money from Williams’s wallet and searched the house, Mays rang the doorbell, and Rivera let him in, Williams testified.

Mays saw the gun and started running out of the house. Williams said he heard a gunshot, but did not actually see Rivera firing the weapon.

A tip from an Ypsilanti drug dealer resulted in Rivera’s arrest, but that potential witness died a month after the murder, according to West.

Another person who might have had information on the case also turned up dead earlier this year. The body of William E. “Willie” Willis, 29, of Ann Arbor was found by a jogger last April 10 in Brown Park near 1-94 and Stone School Road in Pittsfield Township. He had been shot six times with a .32 caliber weapon.

Police say a van in which the two robbers fled the Ypsilanti murder scene belonged to Willis’ estranged wife who, at that time, was Rivera’s girlfriend.

Rivera has records of larceny and assault. In one assault case, the judge had to overturn his conviction just before sentencing when a victim reversed her testimony.

On April 21, 1983, a jury found Rivera guilty of assault with intent to murder in the stabbing of his girlfriend and her infant. But she later told the judge she had lied about the attack, and the judge had to vacate the conviction just before sentencing.

Sources say police also suspect that Rivera may have been involved in several armed robberies at local “dope-houses” where marijuana and cocaine are illegally sold and bought.

West, while acknowledging Rivera was “notorious” in Ypsilanti’s drug scenes, said his client didn’t kill Mays. He said Rivera was with his family in Ann Arbor at the time of murder, and his girlfriend’s van also could not have been the getaway car.