Murder charge to be dropped
By James Peacemaker, Jr. Managing Editor
Dec 10, 2013, 16:30
COLONIAL HEIGHTS -- All charges will be dropped against the estranged wife of Rusty Mack, a 22-year-old who died following a fight outside of his apartment Feb. 11.
Ashley Mack had been charged along with three others in his death. The decision to drop the charges came after Jonathan Guy, 20, was found not guilty Nov. 8 of four felony counts including second-degree murder, malicious wounding, murder by mob and malicious wounding by mob, and charges were dropped against Francis Blaha III on Nov. 14.
Ashley Mack’s trial was set to begin Monday, but Colonial Heights Commonwealth Attorney William B. Bray notified the court that the charges will be nolle prosequi, or set aside, and that they can call off they jury. She was facing the same charges as Guy.
Bray said he notified the family of Rusty Mack on Wednesday afternoon.
“It was difficult for the family. I know that when I had spoken to them before about problems, I’m not sure that it was a surprise when I told them. ... I believe they understand. ... These decisions are not taken lightly,” Bray said.
Bray said that he did not believe the comonwealth could prove beyond a reasonable doubt what they needed to convict Ashley Mack. He also had another prosecutor confirm this.
“I had submitted police reports, witness statements and all of the relevant evidence to an independent prosecutor in northern Virginia who agreed to take a look at it and his opinion was the same as mine, that we should nolle pros the charges against Ashley Mack,” he said.
If the charges are set aside, they could still be brought back if more evidence comes to light, although this is unlikely.
Bray said charges against the fourth person charged in Rusty Mack’s death, Margaret Blair Dacey, 18, will still go to trial in February.
The altercation that resulted in Rusty Mack’s death happened when the four individuals showed up at his apartment to confront him about harassing text messages and phone calls.
According to testimony at Guy’s trial, Rusty yelled for them to leave from the upstairs apartment, after which Guy got into a car and it drove away.
A neighbor testified that Rusty soon began yelling angrily to a person on the phone to “come over right now” along with several expletives.
Later, a car pulled up outside of the apartment where the neighbor saw Guy, Dacey, Blaha and Ashley Mack.
Ashley Mack was Guy’s girlfriend, and Rusty Mack and Guy were cousins through marriage.
Rusty was still legally married to Ashley Mack at the time, although they had been separated for months and filed for divorce, according to family.
Rusty came running out of the apartment and approached them staggering from being drunk.
Rusty eventually fell over in the street, and when he got back to his feet he threw a punch at Guy and missed, to which Guy also responded by swinging a missed punch. Guy then wrestled Rusty to the ground. After Guy got off of Rusty, he stood up and walked over toward Ashley, they screamed and argued with each other before Ashley pushed Rusty and he fell to the ground, the neighbor testified.
Rusty was sitting on the ground, with his legs outstretched, using his hands to push himself up when Dacey kicked him in the head and he fell backwards, the neighbor said.
According to court records and testimony, Dacey, who was 17 at the time, said Rusty Mack had splashed water on her.
First responders arrived on scene moments later. Mack died after being in a coma for 17 days at Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center in Richmond.
The cause of death was a “significant amount of force” to fracture the back of Rusty’s skull from falling into a concrete surface, which made his brain swell and shift to a point of excessive herniation over the next weeks, according to the testimony of Dr. Kevin Whaley, with the chief medical examiner of Richmond, who performed the autopsy on Rusty Mack.
Whaley said that the break in the rear of the skull was inconsistent with the force of a human punch, elbow or kick, and that although there were “abrasions on the face” there were no injuries to the front of the face that caused any physical trauma.
Whaley also said that Rusty had a high blood alcohol level when he received the injuries, but that this did not have any huge effect on his injuries.
For Dacey, charges of murder by mob and and malicious wounding by mob were nolle prossed Nov. 15, the same day charges were dropped against Blaha, who drove the four to the scene but was not directly involved in the altercation. Charges of murder and malicious wounding remain for Dacey, according to online court records. The trial is set for Feb. 6 and 7.
• Staff writer Blake Belden contributed to this report.