Editor's note: This story covers the first day of what is scheduled to be a three-day trial. We will be putting updates at https://www.facebook.com/newspatriot and we will have a story about the rest of the trial in Tuesday's newspaper.
COLONIAL HEIGHTS — The murder trial for the last remaining defendant charged in the Russell "Rusty" Mack homicide began on Wednesday in Chesterfield Circuit Court.
Margaret Blair Dacey, charged with murder and aggravated assault/malicious wounding, is the last of four defendants who were originally charged in Rusty's death at the age of 21. In 2013, Rusty suffered a traumatic blow to his skull after falling into a curb outside of his residence in Colonial Heights.
Jonathan Guy, Rusty's first cousin through marriage, was found not guilty through a trial by jury, and the other two defendants, Ashley Whitmore Mack, Rusty's estranged wife at the time, and Francis Blaha III, Dacey's boyfriend at the time, had their charges dismissed.
By numerous witnesses, Dacey is alleged to have delivered the kick that ultimately led to Mack's death in the hospital 17 days after an altercation occurred outside of his apartment on Shuford Avenue.
Jordan Lawson, who was 16 years old and lived with his family in the apartment below Rusty, testified that Dacey approached Rusty as he was getting up off the ground and kicked him in the front of the face, a swing that "looked pretty forceful" and made an audible noise "like a thump or a thud."
Lawson said that he saw Rusty fall back, hit his head against the curb and lie on the ground motionless.
Sgt. Sam Young, with the Colonial Heights Police Department, testified that he was the night shift patrol sergeant on duty on Feb. 11, the night of the incident in question.
After receiving a call from dispatch a few blocks away from Rusty's residence on the 1100 block of Shuford Avenue, he was the first responder on the scene and arrived to find Rusty lying flat on his back with another male standing over him, according to Young.
Young testified that he jumped out of his car to check Rusty's condition where he found him bleeding from his nose and mouth, with knots on his head and his eyes rolled back in his head.
Because Rusty still showed signs of a pulse, Young said that he did not perform CPR and called dispatch to send EMS services to the scene.
Young said that he was speaking with Ashley when Dacey interrupted their conversation to tell him that she had kicked Rusty in the head because Rusty had splashed water on her.
Dacey, who had water marks all over the front of her sweatshirt, acted in an "animated" and "excited" manner akin to an adrenaline rush, and also stated that she was angry because Rusty had pushed Ashley, Young testified.
Young, who gave the order to arrest Dacey, said that she was straightforward and did not act as if she had been intoxicated.
Lawson testified that he had been watching the entire incident through his bedroom window, which he described as follows:
Initially, an argument started between Rusty and Guy, and when Rusty stepped into the street, Guy pushed him and he fell backwards onto his buttocks. Rusty then got up and threw a missed punch at Guy, and Guy also threw a missed punch back at Rusty, before wrestling him to the ground. Ashley told both of them to stop fighting, after which they eventually stopped. Rusty then crossed the street and started to argue with Ashley in her face. Police sirens were soon within earshot, at which point Ashley pushed Rusty in his shoulder. Rusty fell back on his bottom into a puddle, and when he went to get up is when Dacey kicked him.
Ashley, who had lived in the apartment with Rusty for about two years following their marriage before she decided to move out in late 2012, testified that Rusty had a serious problem with alcohol and blamed this issue as a primary reason for their separation.
Leading up to the altercation in February of 2013, Rusty had been calling both Ashley and her mother repeatedly. When he continued to text Ashley on the night of the incident, she and Guy, who she had started a relationship with, decided to go over to Rusty's to tell him to stop harassing her.
Because Ashley was living at Blaha's at the time, Dacey offered to drive, and as a result all four of the individuals ended up at Rusty's apartment.
When Rusty came out of his apartment to meet the four of them standing outside, he was "yelling a lot" and Ashley said that he was acting intoxicated.
Ashley said that after she told Guy and Rusty to quit fighting, Rusty walked over to her and continued to bump into her, yell and call her expletives for about a minute, until she finally pushed him in the shoulder.
She testified that she was looking toward the Boulevard and the sound of oncoming sirens when Rusty fell back into the curb, therefore she did not see it actually happen.
According to Ashley, Dacey was later heard "bragging" on Blaha's porch that she kicked Rusty.
During cross examination by the defense, Ashley also testified that her initial statement to authorities might not be entirely true because she didn't realize the seriousness of the situation and she was trying to protect Dacey, in addition to the fact that she has difficulty remembering many details of the incident because so much time has passed.
Alli Pryor, who played soccer for two years alongside Dacey on the Colonial Heights High School team, testified that they both received specialized training as goalkeepers to punt the ball, and that Dacey's kick was "pretty powerful."
Special prosecutor Tara Mooney, from the Stafford County Commonwealth's Attorney's Office, said that Rusty's parents pulled him off of life support on Feb. 28, 2013, and asked the jury to convict Dacey for committing a "very violent attack" without just cause.
Defense attorney Michael Lee argued in his opening statements that the jury must look at all of the evidence provided and ask themselves "exactly what killed Rusty Mack?"
The trial was moved from Colonial Heights Circuit Court because the previous judge recused himself from the case, and the defense also motioned for a fair and impartial jury.
Dacey was visibly crying periodically throughout the trial on Wednesday.