Dead man's statement could come into fatal Chattanooga shooting trial

Contributed photo Edward Ryals Jr. has been charged in a shooting Friday that resulted in the death of Ronald Blackmon Jr. on Sheridan Street.
photo Quincy Bell
photo Contributed photo Demetrius Bibbs has been charged in a shooting Friday that resulted in the death of Ronald Blackmon Jr. on Sheridan Street.

A single sentence that a man tearfully shared with his girlfriend could radically change the future of the man charged in a 2011 murder.

Edward Ryals Jr., 21, had faced a trial for first-degree murder next week in the shooting death of Ronald Blackmon on March 6, 2011.

Ryals rode in the car with Demetrius Bibbs and Quincy Bell during the shooting.

All three were questioned shortly after Blackmon was transported to a local hospital with a gunshot wound to the head.

Bell then went to visit his then-girlfriend Stephanie Paisley.

He was despondent and crying when he told her, "My brother took the charge for me," referring to Ryals being charged with the shooting.

At the time, Blackmon had not yet died, and Ryals and Bibbs, 21, likely faced a charge of aggravated assault or attempted murder. But once Blackmon died, the charge became first-degree murder, which could result in a life sentence upon conviction.

Ryals' attorney, Amanda Dunn, is trying to get Bell's statement into court testimony to help her client in his newly scheduled trial on April 29.

The only way that will happen is if Hamilton County Criminal Court Judge Rebecca Stern allows it. In a hearing on the request on Monday, she said that she wants Paisley to testify at the next hearing before she'd rule whether the information will come before a jury.

Bell can't talk because he was killed on Sept. 22, 2012. Marcus Boston was charged in the slaying but those charges were dismissed when witness Jessica Little refused to come to court.

Dunn also asked that Bell's preliminary hearing testimony not be allowed in the trial. Ryals and Bibbs were both charged in Blackmon's shooting.

Ryals' then-attorney Robin Flores waived the hearing and asked that the charges be sent to the grand jury. But in Bibbs' hearing, Bell testified that he was a passenger in the car and suddenly heard gunshots but couldn't tell who fired.

In Bell's description of the scene, it would likely be understood by jurors that Bibbs was driving and Bell was a passenger. That would leave only Ryals as the possible shooter.

Flores said at the time that Ryals was asked to take responsibility for the shooting, which is why he confessed to police.

Bibbs is free on his own recognizance. He was released nearly two years ago as he awaited trial. Ryals is still in custody on a $500,000 bond.

Dunn said after the hearing that she wants to exclude Bell's previous court testimony because it was never challenged in court by his previous attorney and now that Bell is dead there isn't any way for her to challenge it in court. She also wants her client's confession to be tossed.

The case is set for a motion hearing on April 7, where Paisley is expected to testify.