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Defense says slain man was the aggressor

November 15, 2006|by MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. - The safety of the black, semi-automatic handgun was on.

The chamber was empty.

But the magazine wasn't and the weapon was lying in the Relax Inn parking lot off Winchester Avenue, about three feet away from Ronald Lee Kidrick, who was found by Berkeley County Sheriff's deputies on his back, dying of a gunshot wound to the head.

The fatal wound inflicted in the early morning hours of July 30, 2005, just outside of Martinsburg, was caused by another gun, jurors seated for the murder trial of Edward C. Grimes were told Tuesday.

"I understood (the semi-automatic) to be the firearm of the victim," said Berkeley County Sheriff's Department patrol deputy J.R. Fleagle, the first state witness to testify after a jury of six men and six women were seated for Grimes' trial. A man and woman were selected as alternates from a pool of 42 people summoned by Berkeley County Circuit Court officials for jury duty.

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The jury is charged with deciding whether Grimes, 24, formerly of Baltimore, is guilty of first- or second-degree murder or voluntary or involuntary manslaughter, or if he is innocent and acted in self-defense.

In May, presiding 23rd Judicial Circuit judge David H. Sanders declined to accept Grimes' guilty plea of second-degree murder after the victim's family objected to the terms of the prison sentence attached. Grimes, aka "Turk," would have been eligible for parole after serving a fraction of a possible 12-year sentence under that agreement.

Grimes' court-appointed attorney, Homer Speaker, on Tuesday reiterated his client's self-defense claim in opening statements and asked jurors to consider evidence yet to be introduced in the trial that appears to show the victim was the aggressor and was intoxicated and had used cocaine prior to shooting.

"He came from (his home in) Shepherdstown to Martinsburg - all he had to do was stay in Shepherdstown," Speaker said. "Why would he do that?"

Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Gregory V. Smith told the jurors that he and fellow Assistant Prosecutor Nicholas F. Colvin were trying to be the "voice" for the victim, who Smith repeatedly acknowledged used drugs and alcohol.

"Nobody is going to say Ronald Kidrick did not have his faults," Smith said.

In his opening statement, Smith homed in on an alleged statement by Grimes to Kidrick in a phone conversation prior to the shooting and suggested the accused invited the confrontation at the motel by telling the victim to "come over and get some of this."

"And he did come," Smith said. "And he got some."

Smith and Colvin are slated to resume their presentation of evidence this morning at 9 a.m.

Under orders from Sheriff's Deputy Lt. P.R. Copenhaver, Fleagle said he produced a crime scene sketch that depicted where Kidrick was in relation to the motel and other items found near the parking lot entrance.

Upon taking the stand to testify, Copenhaver disputed Fleagle's positioning of Kidrick, noting the victim's head was closer to Winchester Avenue, not his feet as Fleagle apparently portrayed.

Along with the gun, Fleagle said deputies found a cell phone, , a set of keys and a baseball cap.

Retired Sheriff's Deputy Capt. K.C. Bohrer described for the jury a "hectic" crime scene of people screaming and crying that continued at City Hospital, where Kidrick was taken and where fights broke out in the parking lot.

Bohrer said he briefly talked to the young boys of Grimes' girlfriend, Mary Davis, who all were at the motel when the shooting happened. Bohrer said he could not recall whether he took notes on what they told him.

"I remember hearing from a child - Turk shot my daddy," Bohrer said.

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