A Madison County jury found a Waco man not guilty of assault Thursday in the shooting of his former best friend at a 2011 reunion with other Army buddies.
Denver Rearick, 29, had been accused of either intentionally or wantonly firing a gun into Matthew Richie’s mouth. The four-day trial ended with the jury deliberating for two hours before delivering the not-guilty verdict.
Rearick showed little emotion as he helped his attorneys, Michael Eubanks and Jim Baechtold, gather files before quickly leaving the courtroom.
Richie, who survived the severe injury, was assisted from the courtroom by his mother. A small group of family and friends followed them out.
The trial focused on the events of Jan. 22, 2011, when Richie and Rearick gathered with two other former Army buddies at Rearick’s family’s home in Waco. The two men had formed a close bond while serving together at Fort Campbell and later during a yearlong Iraq deployment in 2005.
During the trial, the defense entered into evidence snapshots taken that night of the men posing with a variety of handguns. They were shown pointing the weapons at each other’s heads, and in one, Rearick had the barrel of a gun in his mouth.
Around 9:30 p.m., one of the guns went off, shooting Richie in the face. Rearick and Richie were alone in a living room when it occurred and there were no other witnesses.
Richie, who nearly died from a severed carotid artery, testified Wednesday. He stated the two men had been talking calmly when suddenly Rearick put him in a headlock, forced a gun in his mouth and said “How does that taste, (expletive)?” before firing the gun.
Richie said Rearick had been drunk and huffing nitrous oxide before the shooting.
However, Rearick testified that he had his back turned to Richie when he heard the pistol fire. When he turned around, he saw Richie falling to the ground with blood gushing from his eye, nose and mouth.
The defense maintained Richie had accidentally shot himself.
Richie suffered a stroke from the loss of blood to his brain and has permanent paralysis to the left side of his body. His mother, Wendy Richie, testified that she has quit her job as a teacher in order to care for her son.
Richie’s parents and friends took the stand during the trial, testifying that Rearick told different stories about what happened. At first, he insisted he didn’t know what happened, but later told people he may have shot his best friend, they said.
Rearick testified that he never told anyone he shot Richie.
One thing every witness agreed on was that the two men were incredibly close and never showed any animosity toward each other.
Another major factor in the trial was that the Kentucky State Police initially determined the shooting was accidental, and Rearick’s guns were returned to him four days later with no testing performed on them.
Other than photographs, no other evidence was collected by police at the scene of the shooting.
The investigating trooper, who was formally reprimanded for his handling of the case, also was unable to locate tapes of interviews he did with both Richie and Rearick after the shooting.
In his closing, defense attorney Mike Eubanks argued that there was no evidence, other than statements from people who weren’t at the scene that night, that Rearick fired a gun at his friend.
“Guilt beyond a reasonable doubt requires more than statements … it requires corroboration,” Eubanks said.
Matthew Richie and his parents have filed a civil lawsuit in Madison Circuit Court against Rearick and his parents, seeking compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering, psychiatric care, care-giving costs, attorney fees and punitive damages.
That case is still ongoing.
Sarah Hogsed can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 624-6694.