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Young witness in Austin-East murder case ends up a homicide victim himself

Germany Hines Jr., 16, was shot and killed in December. He was a witness in the Stanley Freeman Jr. murder case that's set to go to trial in March.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — An Austin-East High School student expected to offer important testimony in the February 2021 ambush killing of a schoolmate was shot and killed himself in December, a court hearing revealed Friday.

Germany Hines Jr. was just a couple weeks shy of his 17th birthday when a gunman killed him the night of Dec. 20 while he was out in the Walter P. Taylor Homes housing development in the 440 block of Taylor Homes Road.

The Knoxville Police Department released no details about Hines at the time.

But on Friday, during a hearing for the two young defendants accused of killing Austin-East student Stanley Freeman Jr., Knox County prosecutor TaKisha Fitzgerald informed Knox County Criminal Court Judge Steve Sword that Hines had died in December.

Hines previously testified at a Knox County Juvenile Court hearing that he saw Rashan Jordan, then 14, and Deondre Davis, then 16, the afternoon of Feb. 12, 2021, outside Austin-East as classes let out for the weekend. Hines testified at the time that he was familiar with Freeman, who was older, and was friends with one of the defendants.

WBIR and other area media covered the hearing.

Hines also told Juvenile Court Judge Tim Irwin at the time that he recalled seeing the blue Nissan the suspects were riding in, although he couldn't recall who was driving. They were in the car outside Austin-East just as Freeman was leaving school himself in his Honda.

Authorities say Davis and Jordan followed Freeman and shot him as he drove away. Freeman wrecked in his Honda, mortally wounded. Davis and Jordan did not attend Austin-East.

Fitzgerald is asking Judge Sword to let her present Hines' recorded testimony from the November 2021 juvenile court hearing to the jury now that he is dead. Hines is listed as a witness for the state in public records.

Defense attorneys Ashlee Mathis, who represents Davis, and Hoai Robinette, who represents Jordan, oppose using the recording, arguing they have no way to challenge or probe what the boy said on the recording back in November 2021. They also said the circumstances under which he gave testimony in Juvenile Court are far different than what he'd face in Criminal Court.

Neither represented Davis and Jordan in Juvenile Court.

Sword told the lawyers Friday he wanted to listen to Hines' recorded testimony before deciding whether it can be allowed as evidence.

Davis and Jordan, who were transferred last year from Juvenile Court to Criminal Court to be tried as adults, face trial March 27. They've been in custody since February 2021.

Besides the murder of Freeman, they're also accused of trying to kill two other young people who were leaving Austin-East in January 2021.

Authorities say they've recovered cell phone data and weapons the defendants used at the time.

Hines said he didn't socialize with Freeman.

"He was cool," he testified back in 2021.

He recalled greeting Davis and Jordan after school let out as they sat in the blue Nissan. Moments later, he testified he was walking toward home with friends when he heard the gunshots that ended up killing Freeman.

He called the pair after the shooting, he testified. They told him they'd call back, he testified. They said nothing about the shooting, Hines said.

Hines is one of at least seven Austin-East students who have died in gun violence in the last two years.

No one has been arrested or charged in his killing.

Knoxville Police Department spokesman Scott Erland said it appears to investigators that Hines was targeted.

"Investigators are continuing to look at the case from multiple possible angles," Erland said Friday.

Anyone with information about Hines' homicide is asked to contact East Tennessee Valley Crime Stoppers. You can do so anonymously.

You can call Crime Stoppers at 865-215-7165 or communicate online with them at www.easttnvalleycrimestoppers.org. Tipsters may be eligible for a cash reward.

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