Virginia - Richard Mabry said he was coerced into taking parts in events that led to a woman's death in 2008.
PULASKI -- The key witness in a bizarre Pulaski County murder case testified for an hour and a half Monday, but it remains to be seen whether his statements helped the prosecution or the defense.
Richard Forest Mabry told jurors that as he was about to drive off with a woman the night of Jan. 21, 2008, his friend French David Kanode slipped a knife into the pocket of his sweatshirt and said, "Do what you have to do."
Kanode, known by the nickname Dizzy, had previously told him he would need to kill someone to be initiated into the Pagans motorcycle gang, Mabry testified.
Monday was the first day of a jury trial in Pulaski County Circuit Court for Kanode, who is charged with conspiracy to commit murder and soliciting to commit murder. His trial is expected to conclude today.
The body of Dawn Lee Meredith Wright, 42, of Radford was found the afternoon of Jan. 23, 2008, off the side of a gravel road at the base of what is called Bloomer's Mountain. She had been stabbed in the chest and back.
At a hearing in December 2008, Mabry pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and was sentenced to serve 30 years in prison, with an additional 20 years suspended.
Mabry, sporting a shaved head and a red New River Valley Jail jumpsuit, testified Monday that he believed Kanode was a member of the Pagans and only learned later that he is not. He said he became a prospective member, was working to memorize an oath Kanode told him he would have to recite, and got tattoos indicative of membership. He said Kanode tattooed the letters "GFBD" -- for "God forgives, brotherhood doesn't" -- on his neck.
Mabry testified that at one point he decided he didn't want to be a part of the Pagans after all. Kanode told him he would figure out a way to get him out of it, he said.
Then the night of Jan. 21, 2008, he testified, Kanode put a knife to his throat and asked, "Are you ready to die tonight?"
He said Kanode threatened to kill him and his family if he didn't do what he was told.
Kanode, dressed in a jacket and tie and with tattoos showing on his face, behind his ear, around his neck and on his hands and fingers, shook his head through much of Mabry's testimony.
The pair drove around looking for a victim, Mabry testified. He said that at first Kanode told him they would pick a teenager off the street, then asked if Mabry had a grudge against anyone. When Mabry said no, Kanode led him to the home of Wright, who had known Kanode for years.
The three went to a gas station, a tattoo shop in Radford, and a woman's home together. That woman, Virginia Robinson, testified that Kanode stayed at the home while Mabry left with Wright, whom he said he had never met before. She said that at one point Kanode told her Mabry was with "the president's daughter" and he hoped he didn't "mistake her for his mark."
Robinson and another woman, Denise Lindsey, testified that Mabry didn't seem like himself that night. Robinson said he seemed antsy and nervous. Lindsey said he seemed scared.
Mabry testified that when his van failed to make it up Bloomer's Mountain because of the icy roads, he saw it as a sign. He said he wanted to warn Wright about Kanode's plan but that when they got out of the van to check the ice, the knife fell out of his sweatshirt.
He testified that Wright got upset and began to hit him. She ran. He chased after her. Both fell, he said, and he stabbed her.
Jonathon Venzie, one of Kanode's attorneys, seemed incredulous at Mabry's claim that he intended to save Wright, only to stab her in the back a moment later.
Mabry's statements had been clear under questioning from Pulaski County Commonwealth's Attorney Mike Fleenor, but became confusing and often argumentative under cross-examination from Venzie.
When asked why some of the things he said in court were not included in the confession he gave to police days after the killing, Mabry said, "Do we want to split hairs on every little bit of what I did and did not say?
"I regret my part in it," he said. He said he "manned up" and confessed and that it was Kanode's turn to do the same.
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