Witnesses: Victim considered violent

Posted: April 17, 2013

The Winchester Star

WINCHESTER — Testimony from law enforcement and friends of accused killer Bradley Scott Gregory Tuesday painted his victim, Michael Scott Shirley, as a violent man.

Gregory, 28, of Winchester, is charged with first-degree murder and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony after shooting Shirley during a gathering that began on Dec. 31, 2011.

He was arrested and charged in Shirley’s death after Frederick County sheriff’s deputies responded in the early morning hours of Jan. 1 to a 911 call about a person being shot at 1373 S. Timber Ridge Road, near the West Virginia border.

During Tuesday’s second day of the trial in Frederick County Circuit Court, witnesses testified that the two had been arguing about a comment Gregory made about Shirley’s girlfriend having a crush on him a long time ago.

The argument ended with Gregory shooting Shirley from his truck.

What jurors were told they would have to determine is if the killing was first-degree murder, or if there was premeditation and intent on Gregory’s part to kill Shirley.

On Tuesday, Public Defender Timothy Coyne presented witnesses for the defense, four of whom had hung out with Gregory at various times on the night of the shooting.

When Coyne asked them if Gregory’s reputation in the community was violent or non-violent, all four responded “non-violent.” When he asked the same question about Shirley, three said that Shirley was considered “violent.”

Gregory’s longtime friend Steven Braithwaite, who was present the night of the shooting, said Shirley had “gotten a little rowdy” and at one point in the evening and stated that he “wanted to fight someone.”

Tony Link, a sheriff’s department deputy in Morgan County, W.Va., was called to the stand to answer questions about a criminal complaint filed by Shirley’s girlfriend, Jennifer Staub, in 2011.

The complaint states that Shirley sexually assaulted Staub after she refused to have sex with him. At one point he grabbed her by the legs and ripped off her pants and underwear. When she got away, he tackled her again.

A forensic nurse from Winchester Medical Center corroborated that the bruises on Staub’s body were consistent with that of an assault.

Staub, however, later recanted her story.

The prosecution wrapped up its evidence Tuesday with testimony from a medical examiner and forensic scientist.

Constance R. DiAngelo, an assistant chief medical examiner at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, testified that Shirley died of a gunshot wound to the chest. Gregory was inside his truck when he shot Shirley, who was standing outside the vehicle.

DiAngelo testified that she couldn’t tell what position Shirley’s body was in when he was shot, but that he was hit from an “intermediate distance” of between 2 and 24 inches.

Jami Taylor, from the Virginia Department of Forensic Science, determined that the distance from Gregory’s gun muzzle to Shirley’s clothing was greater than 12 inches but no farther than 5 feet.

Forensic pathology consultant Jonathan Arden, a witness for the defense, however, deduced that the range of fire was approximately 12 inches and that the bullet entered in Shirley’s left side.

In a twist from the traditional murder trial, Gregory — who appeared solemn during Tuesday’s court appearance — was the first to take the stand for the defense.

He testified that he was very intoxicated the night of the killing, having finished off a bottle of Jack Daniels and several shots of moonshine.

According to his girlfriend, Alicia Codori, 26, Gregory threw up “a lot” and fell down numerous times that night.

“Before we even got there, he was pretty drunk at that point,” she said. “Before midnight, he was pretty much gone.”

Gregory said a comment he made upset Shirley.

“I said to Jennifer Staub, ‘years ago, I heard you liked me,’” Gregory testified.

Gregory and Shirley had words, then shook hands and made up — minutes before Gregory said Shirley appeared again, “highly angered.”

“I was like, I don’t want no trouble, I don’t,” Gregory said.

At one point, Codori said she heard a lot of noise, and when she went out on the porch, Shirley was in Gregory’s face screaming, “You were trying to f--- my girlfriend.”

The two men were separated.

Gregory, who was put in his truck with the window rolled up, said he rolled it down so he could hear what was going on.

When he saw Shirley approaching, he testified that he grabbed the gun from the glove box, loaded it with ammunition from the center console and shot him.

“He was preparing to swing at me,” Gregory said, adding that he was trying to aim at the ground, not Shirley. “I wasn’t trying to do any harm. I was trying to get him away.”

Codori said that after Gregory shot Shirley, “he didn’t seem to realize what was going on or what happened.” Codori said that Gregory was crying and stating that he “just wanted Michael to live again” and that he “wanted to take it back.”

Forensic toxicologist Carol O’Neill stated that Shirley’s blood alcohol content (BAC) after his death was 0.24 and that he did not have drugs in his system.

Forensic toxicologist consultant Joseph Saady, of Richmond, said that he estimated that Gregory’s BAC was likely about 0.23 at the time of the shooting.

Frederick County Commonwealth’s Attorney Ross Spicer found discrepancies between Gregory’s testimony on Tuesday and his previous interviews with investigators — such as the number of times he’d used his gun before the incident and how he’d previously said he’d intended to shoot Shirley in the leg, not the ground.

— Contact Rebecca Layne at rlayne@winchesterstar.comor Melissa Boughton at mboughton@winchesterstar.com