“Come on brother, stay with me man!”
A man’s voice frantically urging 26-year-old Matthew Richie to keep breathing and to stay alive were heard over and over on the 911 tape played Monday in Madison Circuit Court.
Denver Rearick, 29, was one of the people who rendered aid to Richie on Jan. 22, 2011, after the man had been shot in the face at a Waco home. However, Monday morning Rearick sat with his attorneys at the start of his trial on a charge of first-degree assault.
Rearick was arrested by the Kentucky State Police nearly four months after the incident. Although it was initially considered accidental by the KSP, a Madison grand jury found sufficient evidence to indict Rearick, alleging he acted in a reckless manner that led to Richie’s life-threatening injury.
The KSP originally reported that Rearick and Richie were “twirling” guns while intoxicated, and Rearick’s gun discharged. However, Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Tom Smith presented a different scenario to the jury.
Rearick and Richie served in the U.S. Army and became close friends during a tour of duty in Iraq. During a get-together with other Army veterans, the two men began roughhousing. At some point, Rearick pulled Richie back over his knee, put the pistol in his mouth and it went off, Smith said.
Being drunk and playing with a loaded gun is something “no person ever, with any commonsense, would ever do,” the prosecutor said.
However, defense attorney Michael Eubanks presented a different version of what happened. Statements from friends revealed that Rearick and Richie often behaved in a manner that was “very irresponsible and cavalier” with firearms, according to Eubanks.
The night of the shooting, Richie and Rearick went into the living room together while two other men stayed in the kitchen. Eubanks said Rearick had turned away from Richie in order to take his shirt off when he heard a gunshot. He turned to see Richie falling to the ground and bleeding from a gunshot wound to the face.
The injury to Richie was accidentally self-inflicted, Eubanks told the jury. Once the evidence is presented, “you’ll agree with me that (the shooting) was unfortunate, but it was not criminal,” the defense attorney said.
Wendy Richie, Matthew Richie’s mother, was the first prosecution witness to testify Monday. A resident of Lexington, the former teacher now stays at home to care for her son.
She testified that Rearick came to the hospital several times while Richie was being treated. Although Rearick initially told her he didn’t know what happened, she later overheard him tell someone he had been twirling guns “like John Wayne” when Richie was shot.
After lunch, KSP Detective Edwin Botkin took the stand. He was one of the troopers who responded to the shooting.
Baechtold pressed Botkin about why an evidence log wasn’t kept during the investigation. He also asked Botkin if he was aware that the lead investigator, Trooper Toney Allen, received a reprimand from his supervisor about his poor handling of the case.
Botkin said he requested a detective to take over the shooting investigation that night, but the request had been denied by his sergeant. So he, Allen and another trooper handled the investigation.
The guns found at the scene, including the revolver, were returned to Rearick just four days after the shooting, according to Baechtold. Botkin said he did not have knowledge about whether the guns underwent ballistics testing or were dusted for fingerprints or DNA evidence.
Baechtold asked Botkin why he requested a detective to come to the scene.
“We didn’t know what kind of case we had,” Botkin replied, stating there were conflicting stories, and the case was quickly becoming time-consuming.
Botkin also said he thought the incident was going to be a death investigation, noting he’s witnessed people dying before and is familiar with the “signs and symptoms” of a person close to death.
“It appeared (Richie) was going to die,” Botkin said.
The trial will resume this morning at 9 a.m. in Madison Circuit Court. It is expected to last about four days.
Sarah Hogsed can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 624-6694.