WEST POINT — Under the watchful eyes of Clay County jurors, witnesses slowly recreated the drama surrounding the 2010 shooting death of a Cedar Bluff man.
Jeremy Barnhill, 26, of 9157 Deer Run in West Point, faces a charge of manslaughter for the Jan. 2, 2010, shooting that left 46-year-old Curtis Clardy dead in a ditch.
The trial, which began Tuesday, will likely conclude today before 16th District Circuit Judge Jim Kitchens in the Clay County courthouse in West Point.
The shooting followed a drawn-out dispute between Clardy and the Barnhill family, witnesses said Wednesday.
Clardy had moved in with his girlfriend, Tiffany Johnson, on Sept. 18, 2009, said Clardy”s mother, Oneta Childers, who took the stand Wednesday.
Jeremy Barnhill, Tiffany”s brother, was upset that she had left her husband and children, Childers said. Barnhill, along with others, began harassing Clardy.
The night of Clardy”s death, Clardy and Johnson were at a six-person party in the shed behind his mother and stepfather”s next-door house.
Also at the party was Clardy”s best friend, Donald Sheward, who had just returned to Clay County after a stint in Indiana, and his brother, Shannon Clardy.
Sometime in the course of the night, Curtis Clardy and Johnson allegedly called Barnhill, taunting him to come fight on their street, Jack Williams Road, in Cedar Bluff.
District Attorney Forrest Allgood said Barnhill was charged with manslaughter instead of murder because the shooting happened while a crime was being committed against him.
Johnson has since been charged with conspiracy to commit aggravated assault, according to court records.
When Barnhill showed up shortly before 10:30 p.m., he drove past Clardy”s driveway and went toward the turnabout at the end of the dead-end road.
Clardy and Sheward followed him in Clardy”s truck, Sheward testified. When their vehicles were about 15 feet apart on the 22-foot-long road, both stopped and Clardy exited the vehicle.
As an admittedly drunk Sheward watched, Clardy approached the driver-side door while Barnhill stepped out, allegedly shooting Clardy once in the abdomen from about five feet away.
“As soon as (Barnhill) shot, Curtis struck him, I believe in the left side of his face,” Sheward said.
Then, Barnhill “pushed the barrel into Curtis” abdomen and pulled the trigger” while Clardy held his hand on the top of the gun, Sheward continued.
After a brief scuffle for the gun, which Sheward participated in, Clardy and Sheward ejected the magazine from the 40-caliber Smith and Wesson handgun and Barnhill fled with the gun in his dark-green Ford Explorer, Sheward said.
“My best friend was shot and killed right in front of my eyes,” Sheward told jurors. “I dream of it every night.”
Childers was told by Sheward of the shooting and went to the scene, arriving just ahead of Clay County Sheriff”s Deputies, who were called by her husband, Keith Childers.
She said she picked up the magazine to hand it to deputies, but put it back at their command.
Her son, who died at the Clay County Medical Center later that night, kept saying “Jeremy,” she said.
“This murder has destroyed my family,” she said in her victim impact statement to the court.
Barnhill was stopped by West Point police shortly after the shooting as he tried to enter the medical center parking lot seeking medical attention for cuts to his face.
Investigators found a spent shell on the driver”s seat and another in the chamber of the gun, which was between the two front seats.
Barnhill”s attorneys outlined his defense throughout the testimonies, claiming he feared for his life and acted in self defense.
In their cross examinations, defense attorneys called into question whether Clardy was unarmed and who attacked first.
After the prosecution rested Wednesday, Kitchens rejected a standard motion from defense attorneys asking him to reject the case based on insufficient evidence.
“This is a classic jury-trial decision,” he said before calling a recess until 9 a.m. today.
Witnesses for the defense are expected to testify today, according to one of Barnhill”s attorneys, Jim Waide of Tupelo.