Defense attorneys for accused murderer Anthony Gray rested Monday, indicating Gray’s third trial will be going to the jury sometime early this week.
The trial was originally expected to last throughout this week.
Last Wednesday afternoon, attorneys for Gray, opened their defense. Gray is accused of shooting his parents to death in their home at 8811 Cincinnati Pike in Sadieville, Kentucky in April 2007.
On Thursday, the defense called Jodi Lucas to the stand. Lucas was the person who found the bodies of the Grays on April 26, 2007, and who is a self-described ‘daughter’ of the Grays, though there is no relation, adopted or otherwise. Lucas has testified at the two previous trials as well. In Thursday’s testimony, Defense attorneys focused on multiple discrepancies between Lucas’ previous testimony, statements to the police and current testimony.
“I had a beautiful relationship with Vivian,” Lucas testified. “She was my best friend and mother. I didn’t have a mother and she had a void because her son hadn’t been in her life for a while. She was the first woman who loved me unconditionally.”
In previous testimony Lucas she spoke fondly of her mother, Bonnie Besecker.
Under direct examination from the defense, Lucas testified that, on the last day she saw James and Vivian alive, Tuesday, April 24, they spend the entire day planting a garden at the Gray property in northern Scott County, never leaving the house until she left for work as a nurse in Cincinnati, at 5:30 p.m.
“We planted carrots at the same time as the okra,” Lucas testified. “We planted everything that day except the green beans because we didn’t have the seeds.”
Based on previous testimony by Lucas, she believes Vivian Gray planted those green beans the next day because she harvested those beans in the Fall.
On cross-examination, Commonwealth’s Attorney Lou Anna Red Corn questioned the accuracy of Lucas’ testimony they planted every vegetable on the same day. “If you’re a good gardener, which it sounds like you are, you know there’s a time to plant,” said the attorney.
Red Corn asked Lucas if she was still a practicing nurse, to which Lucas testified, “Not since 2012.” That would coincide with charges that Lucas illegally obtained oxycodone, a narcotic painkiller, from the Central Kentucky Bariatric and Pain Management Center in Georgetown by providing falsified MRI records in April and May 2011. She was subsequently convicted of four Class D felonies related to that crime. Lucas is now an embalmer and funeral director at a funeral home in Owensboro.
Seemingly shaken by a tough cross-examination where Lucas was questioned on several discrepancies, Lucas blurted out to Red Corn, “Ma’am, have I done something to offend you that you are so rude to me?” At that time, lawyers approached the bench and Lucas was called over by Judge Thomas D. Clark.
Red Corn asked Lucas to recount for the jury when she discovered James Gray’s body.
“I saw my daddy face down and full of blood,” Lucas testified about finding James Gray body on the morning of April 26. Lucas testified she ran out of the house upon discovering his body, though she said she had not seen the body of Vivian Gray. “I was scared to death. I was pretty certain from being an ER nurse for so long that he had been shot and the person who did it was still there.”
During a previous trial, Lucas testified, “I got in my truck and dialed 911, and left the property and went north on 25. I’m sorry, south on — I went south on 25. I’m sorry. I was dialing 911 as I was pulling out of the driveway. I was so scared and nervous. And then when I was driving, I kept dropping my phone, fumbling with it when I was trying to call 911. I mean, I was trying to call it when I was driving, and I couldn’t — I couldn’t get the — I couldn’t do it. I was so scared, and I kept fumbling and dropping it. I couldn’t do it.”
In the recording of her 911 call at 8:46 a.m., Lucas asked to disconnect with the dispatcher so she could call her husband. Under cross examination by Red Corn, Lucas had to admit she called her husband twice before calling 911; first at 8:42, and again at 8:43 a.m.
“You called your husband before you called 911?” Red Corn asked.
“Yes, I was in such shock,” Lucas responded. “I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know if I should get my weapon and go back.”
In fact, Lucas tells the 911 dispatcher she has a gun and felt safe enough to return to the murder scene.
Lucas testified no one showed up to the crime scene following her 911 call for 49 minutes. Jody reported being alone until anyone showed up and stated that the first person who arrived was a Kentucky State Police trooper from Dry Ridge. This would put first arrival at 9:35 a.m. by KSP, followed by Scott County Sheriff’s Office and Scott County EMS.
However, Nelson Sewell, one of two Scott County EMT’s who arrived on scene that morning testified earlier, “We stopped just outside of the scene, per protocol until we got the radio call that the scene was secure at 9:21 a.m. We arrived at the residence at 9:28 a.m.” Based on previous testimony by retired Scott County Sheriff’s Detective Dave Willis, he and another SCSO deputy cleared the house, indicating they arrived on scene well before the 49 minutes Lucas testified to.
Despite being a star witness for the defense, in a letter Lucas wrote to Probate Attorney, Carolyn Carroway, J.D., dated June 24, 2007, Jodi testified, “I did not have a desire to have a relationship with him (Anthony), because I believed he murdered his parents at the time.”
“You wrote in here, ‘I have no desire to have a relationship with him since I know how much pain and trouble, he caused James and Vivian’,” Eardley prodded for explanation.
Lucas testified during the second trial, “I would be very pained if my son pulled a pistol at me and shot me.”
“So, when you’re saying the pain and trouble he caused Vivian, it’s because,” Eardley explored.
“It was their death,” Lucas responded.
Lucas also testified Thursday that Vivian’s wishes were to leave her estate to her grandchildren, Charles and Darwin Nowacki. The Nowackis are Anthony Gray’s biological children with his wife, Amy Bray who died at age 20.
Eventually, the boys were adopted by Ray Nowacki though James and Vivian worked to build and maintain a relationship with them, despite their fractured relationship with their father, Anthony. “They were estranged,” Lucas testified, “because he gave up their biological grandkids.”
Lucas also testified that the day after the bodies were found, Anthony Gray called her to ask where important papers, insurance policies, and wills would be, as well as his mother’s purse. Lucas testified, “I told Anthony the insurance was in the safety deposit box in Sadieville, and the wills were in the fire box in the closet.”
Lucas further testified that she was aware Anthony had in his possession several weapons, including a .45, a .22, and a .38 caliber handgun. “I believe the guns Anthony had were owned by James,” Lucas said.
“You saw these guns,” Red Corn responded. “It didn’t matter who owned them. You know guns. You said you’re a good shot.”
“Yes, I’m an avid hunter,” Lucas responded.
During her testimony at the first trial in 2011, just as she was questioned about the 45 guns, she discovered in the basement of her Canewood home, Lucas coughed something up into a tissue. “I’m sorry, that’s just pure blood I just coughed up,” she said. “I don’t know why I’m – that’s happening, but I – it – I keep coughing and I didn’t know it was blood. What was the question again?”
On Thursday, Lucas testified “Daddy frequently put things in my basement,” Lucas said. “A couple times a week. He would yard sale in Georgetown and when the truck got full, he’d drop off stuff at my house and go pick up more things.”
Lucas testified that while she never saw James Gray put the guns in her basement, she knew they were his. “When I found them there was like string tags on them it looked like James’ handwriting with prices, and nobody else would bring – store anything in my basement,” she said.
Lucas testified she called the Scott County Sheriff’s office to pick up the guns and secure them because they were the property of the Grays. Lucas reported that deputies never came to retrieve the guns and, after two days, she had her husband loaded them into her car and she drove them to the Gray farm and put them in the trunk of an abandoned vehicle on the property and called the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to report the location of the weapons. However, when the weapons were retrieved, only 21 guns were recovered.
Red Corn asked Lucas if she recalled the ATF search warrant that was executed on her home following the murders.
“I remember all 11 search warrants executed,” Lucas snapped from the witness stand. Only one search warrant was ever executed on Lucas’ home, according to the ATF.
In addition to Lucas, two previous witnesses for the defense appeared on the stand.
Michael Campbell, who served as pastor of Stonewall Baptist Church, just across Cincinnati Pike from the Gray residence testified.
Campbell testified that he arrived at the church around 3:30 in the afternoon on Wednesday, April 25, to mow the grass on the church property.
“First I stopped at the flea market store to try to get a hold of Jim for some eggs I owed him that he had given us the last Sunday,” Campbell testified. “No one was there. It was closed.”
Campbell then testified that he proceeded down to the church to begin mowing. “When I went in to fill up the mower, I always leave the door open,” he said. “I remember hearing three loud, and powerful gunshots. I thought, at the time, someone was doing target practice. I knew it wasn’t a .22 rifle or anything like that; Maybe a .22 magnum or more powerful gun.” He further testified he heard two shots then a single shot over the span of about five seconds.
During testimony at a previous trial, defense counsel Rodney Barnes asked why Campbell did not mention hearing the shots in his first of two interviews with the police.
“I heard three shots and it didn’t impress me at all,” Campbell read from his earlier statement. “I guess when I thought about the gravity of the situation, it came to my memory.”
On Thursday, Campbell testified that it was after he spoke with fellow witness and church member, Joy Jump, after the murders, that he made a statement about hearing the gunshots.
“After you heard those shots did you see anyone else down at the store?” Barnes asked under direct examination on Thursday.
“I saw some activity down at the store, but I didn’t go down there,” Campbell testified. “I wanted to get the hill done.” Campbell was unable to say if he saw people before or after the gunshots. “I vaguely remember thinking I saw Jim (Gray) down there but after I got done with the hill I never thought about the gunshots because I thought it was just target practice. After I finished the hill, I got back on the riding mower and did the grass between the flea market and the church. I didn’t notice anyone down there at that time.”
On cross-examination, Keith Eardley challenged Campbell’s testimony. “Did you or did you not see James and Vivian Gray on April 24?”
“I think I saw James,” Campbell responded.
“Are you aware that in your testimony under oath in 2012, a question Rodney Barnes asked of you, ‘as far as that day, what time did you see the Grays?’ Your answer, ‘I did not see the Grays.’,” Eardley challenged. “Mr. Campbell you just gave contradictory testimony. Would you like to elaborate?”
“It’s not intentional deception; just a lapse in memory,” Campbell explained.
“So, your memory is getting better over time?” Eardley asked with no response.
Gray has previously stood trial for the double murder in 2012, which ended in a mistrial after the jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict. He was convicted in their murders in 2013 and sentenced to twenty years for each murder as well as five years for tampering with evidence, to be serve consecutively. However, in 2016, the Kentucky Supreme Court overturned that conviction, citing concerns over how a confession was obtained, and ordered a new trial.
Kiva Johnson-Adkins is a former News-Graphic reporter who covered a previous Gray trial for the newspaper. She is currently writing a book on the Gary murders.