Two days before a man shot him dead, 17-year-old Dalton McConathy searched for scrap metal at a house in Chickamauga, Ga. The homeowner often welcomed the teenager, unlike McConathy's killer.
A pair of men from Ringgold, Ga., meanwhile, have recently shared stories of previous interactions with Fred Steven Youngblood, the man who killed McConathy on Nov. 11 during an alleged burglary. Youngblood, 69, apparently threatened both men with a gun, leading them to question whether Youngblood actually had to kill a boy to protect himself.
McConathy's death is one of two in Northwest Georgia in the past month in which the shooter claimed self-defense. In the other case, in Chickamauga on Nov. 27, Joe Hendrix shot a 72-year-old suffering from Alzheimer's disease after he rang Hendrix's doorbell and walked to the backyard in the middle of the night.
Police did not arrest Hendrix or Youngblood, and Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit District Attorney Herbert "Buzz" Franklin will decide whether to charge the shooters. On Monday, he said he has not made a decision about either case.
After killing McConathy on Nov. 11, Youngblood told investigators with the Catoosa County Sheriff's Office that McConathy and a 16-year-old boy were trying to steal scrap metal from his yard. When he confronted them, they apparently charged at Youngblood, and he shot McConathy in the neck.
Chris Gilbreath, of 2569 West Cove Road in Chickamauga, said Monday that he was shocked by the killing. Gilbreath lives on about six acres, and his land is scattered with the parts of his father's old cars.
McConathy apparently happened upon the land about five months ago and asked Gilbreath if he could sell some of the parts to a scrap yard. Gilbreath said yes, and after that McConathy showed up about twice a week.
Gilbreath said McConathy never took anything without permission and offered to split whatever money he got from the scrap yards. Often, the bed of McConathy's truck already held some scrap in it by the time he reached Gilbreath's house. He believes other people gave McConathy pieces of metal, too.
"The boy was so polite, well-mannered," he said. "It's a sad situation."
After hearing about the shooting, Gilbreath said he shared his story with McConathy's parents. Kevin Roach and Robby Kellerhals did the same.
On Friday, Roach signed an affidavit stating that Youngblood threatened to shoot him two years ago. Roach said he and his uncle were driving on Post Oak Road when they saw turkeys crossing the street.
They apparently pulled over to the side of the street, and Youngblood, of 2520 Post Oak Road, drove up to them. According to the affidavit, Youngblood pulled out a handgun, told Roach he owned the property where they stood and said he would shoot Roach if he tried to "slip in the back side."
Roach could not be reached for comment Monday, and Youngblood did not answer the door when a reporter showed up.
Robby Kellerhals shared a similar story to that of Roach. About 10 years ago, when he was 16, Kellerhals lived down the road from Youngblood when Kellerhals' cow escaped. Kellerhals drove down the road to find the cow and parked his car in Youngblood's driveway.
Kellerhals had not talked to Youngblood before and has not since, but on this day Youngblood allegedly met the teenager with a rifle. Kellerhals said he was looking for a cow, and Youngblood apparently called the Catoosa County Sheriff's Office.
According to Kellerhals, deputies arrived about 10 minutes later, and Kellerhals left. On Monday, a member of the Catoosa County Sheriff's Office said the department does not have an incident report from Youngblood's property during that time period.
Still, Kellerhals insists this happened.
"I just thought he was crazy," he said of Youngblood. "I was mind-blown that he was that adamant about me not being where I was. I don't know. I didn't know if he had something to hide back there and that's why he was so testy or if he was really that paranoid of someone stealing his property."
On Monday, Franklin said he could not comment on whether he already knew about Kellerhals' and Roach's stories. But McCracken Poston, an attorney representing McConathy's parents, says these stories are relevant to the case. He says they show that Youngblood is quick to pull a gun on innocent people who approach his property.
Poston argues that, given this information, Franklin should present the case to a grand jury. But the lawyer believes investigators are not treating this case fairly because they don't like the boy's father, Bobby McConathy, who has been arrested in Catoosa County nine times since 1999 and convicted five times, according to court records.
Franklin says this is not true.
"Everybody's aware of that," he said of Bobby McConathy's criminal history. "Everyone knows who he is. But I don't think that has anything to do with the case."
Poston also said Sheriff Gary Sisk told him during a meeting on Nov. 18 that he was going to recommend that the district attorney present the case to a grand jury. Franklin said the sheriff has not made such a recommendation, and Sisk said he did not have this conversation with the defense attorney.
"I did not make any such statement to [McCracken]Poston," Sisk said. "He is not my public spokesman."
Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or firstname.lastname@example.org.