"This is a story of friendship that led to a betrayal," Assistant Ramsey County Attorney Shereen Askalani told jurors in her opening statement Friday in the murder trial of Shawn M. Williams.

The defendant and the victim, Timothy E. Williams, were not related but were as close as brothers, both Askalani and defense attorney Ellen Seesel agreed. Both agreed that the victim had bought a used truck from the defendant and that they'd argued about the vehicle's title and registration documents.

Prosecutors say that's what prompted Shawn Williams to fatally shoot Timothy Williams, a 22-year-old single father, in the parking lot of his apartment building in Little Canada on Sept. 7, 2008.

Williams, 25, is charged with four counts of first- and second-degree murder.

But Seesel said it was Andre D. Davis, 27, who went with Shawn Williams to the victim's apartment on Labore Road about 3 a.m. that morning, who fired the fatal shots. Unbeknownst to Shawn Williams, Davis had been set up and robbed by the victim at some earlier point, Seesel said.

Davis pleaded guilty in early February to second-degree murder and agreed to testify against Shawn Williams. Davis is due to be sentenced April 30.

Seesel admitted during her opening statement that her client is a drug dealer and drug user. "He's no angel," she said. "But he's not a killer and he didn't kill Timothy Williams."

Askalani and Seesel told the jury their versions of what happened before and after the shooting: Shawn Williams, Andre Davis and their girlfriends got together at a house in Owatonna late on Sept. 6. The foursome then drove to a nightclub in Minneapolis.

Timothy Williams joined his girlfriend there later. He and Shawn Williams talked again about the truck documents. At closing time, the victim and his girlfriend drove to his apartment. A short time later, Shawn Williams, Davis and one of their girlfriends showed up in Davis' Ford Explorer.

Askalani said a loaded .44-caliber revolver was hidden in the back hatch.

Shawn Williams packed two laundry baskets with some shoes and clothes he kept at Timothy Williams' apartment and the two men carried the baskets to the hatch of the Explorer.

That's when Shawn Williams shot six times at Timothy Williams, Askalani said. Four bullets hit him, she said.

According to Seesel, however, it was Davis who jumped out of the driver's seat, ran to the back and shot the victim.

The defendant initially denied knowing anything about the victim's death, Askalani told the jury. He agreed to meet with sheriff's investigators and turn himself in, then didn't show up, she said. He was arrested climbing out the bathroom window at his mother's house.

But Davis tried to avoid arrest too, and was on the run for three months before he was captured, Seesel told the jury. He didn't say a word to investigators until he was offered a deal, she said.

"Then he told the story the prosecutor just told you," she said. "He made a plea bargain to save himself. And he lied."

Pat Pheifer • 612-741-4992