On Friday, June 7, after a week-long trial, a jury found a Perry County man guilty for a 2018 fatal shooting in Combs.
Harold Hayes, 38, of Busy, was found guilty following a trial in Perry Circuit Court last week for his alleged involvement in the fatal shooting of Terry Stidham, 38, also of Busy, that occurred at Elm Shoal Branch in the Combs community last August.
Throughout the trial, attorney Frank Riley, representing Hayes, discussed many reasons and scenarios that he felt showed reasonable doubt. Much of Riley’s argument revolved around the notion that the Kentucky State Police Post 13 based their investigation on lies and didn’t look into other leads.
Riley pointed out that many of the witness testimonies contradicted one another, and that the 911 call from the day of the murder even showed discrepancies in witness stories.
“That’s where they (KSP) started — from a lie,” said Riley.
In his argument, Riley stated that he believes a male witness was more involved than KSP were led to believe. Some of the evidence Riley introduced to support this theory were Facebook messages between Stidham and witnesses. The messages focus on drugs and when Stidham would be able to deliver them to the male witness. The messages revealed that on the day of the murder, Stidham was planning to deliver an eight-ball of cocaine to the male witness who lived on Elm Shoal Branch.
“Right there is a motive for murder — drugs,” said Riley. He continued, stating that based on photographs of Stidham’s body, his hand was in a position similar to that of someone holding a gun.
According to police reports, Riley said, neither the drugs nor a gun were located in the vehicle the day of the murder. Riley argued that the male witness, who had made the 911 call and was supposed to get the cocaine from Stidham, could have easily removed the drugs and weapon from the scene before the police arrived.
“What could have been done? I can tell you what could have been done,” said Riley. “They (the state police) could’ve been looking at other suspects, motives and opportunities. I believe they would have found an eight-ball, I believe they would’ve. I believe they would have found a gun. There was a chance for those to be looked at and that chance was missed.”
In addition to discussing the possibility of Hayes being framed by the witness, Riley also argued that it could be possible that Hayes was acting in self-defense, explaining that drug intoxication combined with frequent run-ins with Stidham could have made Hayes paranoid that Stidham meant to harm him.
“They (the commonwealth) showed us a house of bricks and it was paper thin,” said Riley, stating that the evidence showed too much room for reasonable doubt.
Cordell Williams, representing the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office, said that many of Riley’s arguments were unsupported by evidence, explaining that there was no physical evidence to support the idea that Terry had a gun and none to support the belief that there was reason for self-defense.
“Mr. Riley’s assertion that Mr. Hayes acted in self protection, I find that offensive,” said Williams. He continued, “As to Mr. Riley’s argument that Mr. Hayes was acting under some extreme emotional disturbance, I will suggest that being evil does not qualify as being under extreme emotional disturbance. There is no doubt who shot and killed Terry Stidham.
“Something that you simply cannot ignore, and goes to show his evil nature, was the telephone conversation between a female witness and Mr. Hayes. Mr. Hayes is not remorseful over anything, he’s mad because he got caught,” said Williams, referring to one of the commonwealth’s strongest pieces of evidence.
In the recorded phone call, Hayes, an inmate at the Kentucky River Regional Jail, was speaking with a female witness, and admitted to being involved in the murder.
“I’m in here because you (expletive deleted) is why I’m in here,” said Hayes. “Yeah I done it, yeah I sure as (expletive deleted) did, but, by God, you didn’t have to tell on me.”
After deliberation, which lasted less thn an hour, the jury returned with a verdict, finding Hayes guilty of murder and recommending a sentence of 50 years.
Hayes is scheduled to appear in Perry Circuit Court on July 25 for sentencing. He remains lodged in the Kentucky River Regional Jail.