By Sarah Hogsed
Register News Writer
One of the first things Matthew Richie remembered about waking up in the University of Kentucky Medical Center was seeing his mother at his bedside.
“You’ve got a boo-boo,” Richie said his mother told him. Several people in the courtroom Wednesday chuckled, bringing a humorous moment to the man’s intense testimony about his recovery after being shot in the face.
The third day of Denver Rearick’s trial on a first-degree assault charge began with the victim’s testimony.
The two men had become fast friends after serving together in Iraq, and they had gotten together with other former Army buddies at Rearick’s parents’ home in Waco on Jan. 22, 2011.
“I got to the point I would’ve died for him,” Richie said about serving with Rearick, who he had considered his best friend.
However, the night of the get-together, Richie said Rearick was acting recklessly with firearms, twirling them and pointing them at people. He also said Rearick was drunk and getting high by inhaling nitrous oxide from canisters, also know as doing “whippets.”
Around 9:30 p.m., Richie said he was standing by the fireplace talking to Rearick when the man unexpectedly grabbed him from behind and put him in a headlock.
“Then I felt something hit me in the mouth,” Richie testified. It was a handgun, and it discharged into Richie’s mouth.
“It felt like something hit me in the back of the neck, like a 2-by-4,” Richie said.
Richie’s carotid artery was obliterated by the bullet, according to his neurosurgeon’s testimony Tuesday. The loss of blood to his brain caused a stroke in the right hemisphere, resulting in permanent paralysis to the left side of Richie’s body.
The surgeon also performed an emergency surgery to remove a portion of Richie’s skull so his brain could have room to swell.
Two years later, Richie cannot walk without assistance, and he is unable to dress or care for himself, he said.
“There’s not much I can do alone because I have a broken chicken wing,” Richie said, holding up his left arm to another round of chuckles.
Denver Rearick took the stand in his own defense at the end of the day. He said he also had considered Richie his best friend, especially after he took the man under his wing during pre-deployment training at Fort Campbell.
While in Iraq in 2005, the two men patrolled the “Triangle of Death” area of Baghdad and were constantly in dangerous combat situations. Rearick and Richie were both diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder prior to discharge from the Army.
The night of the get-together in Waco, Rearick acknowledged that he, Richie and another friend were acting recklessly with several guns. His attorneys had entered into evidence several pictures from that night in which the men are seen holding guns to their heads and pointing pistols at each other.
“We were screwing around with guns,” Rearick said as he looked at the pictures. “... It’s dangerous, don’t do it, most 13-year-olds know not to do that.”
Rearick said he was alone in the living room with Richie, searching for a clean T-shirt when he heard a gun go off behind him. He turned to see Richie falling to the floor, bleeding from his eye, nose and mouth.
Another man, Stewart Thain, called 911. In the background, Rearick can be heard saying Richie shot himself as he urged his friend to keep breathing.
Thain and Rearick administered first aid until paramedics and police officers arrived.
Rearick adamantly denied shooting Richie.
“Never in all the years I’ve known him have I put my arms around that man’s neck and stuck a gun in his mouth,” Rearick said.
Rearick also said he was not drunk that night, even though he had been drinking alcoholic beverages. His parents, Randy and Becky Rearick, took the stand to also testify that their son and the other men did not appear drunk when they had dinner with the couple a few hours before the shooting.
Although several prosecution witnesses over the prior two days of trial have testified that Rearick changed his story about what happened Jan. 22, 2011, Rearick maintained that he always told people that he “didn’t know” how Richie was shot.
The trial resumes today at 9 a.m. Judge Jean C. Logue said the case will be in the jury’s hands for deliberation later on today.
Sarah Hogsed can be reached at email@example.com or 624-6694.