Teen guilty in Rusty Mack killing
By Blake Belden, staff writer
Jul 21, 2014, 12:15
COLONIAL HEIGHTS — Margaret Blair Dacey broke down into tears and sat shaking in her chair when the verdict was read out loud.
The 18-year-old was found guilty Friday of second-degree murder and assault and battery in the killing of Rusty Mack.
Her bond was revoked and she was taken into custody in the courtroom.
Dacey had been the last of four defendants who were originally charged in Rusty’s death at the age of 21.
On Feb. 11, 2013, Rusty suffered a traumatic blow to his skull after falling onto a curb outside of his residence in Colonial Heights. He died more than two weeks after the incident.
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.
Following the verdict, Michael Mack, Rusty’s father, said that “there is no happiness because nothing is going to bring [Rusty] back,” but he is glad that people saw it’s not just the Mack family saying this was wrong.
Attorneys would not speak about the result of the case prior to the sentencing.
Because Dacey was a minor when the incident occurred, she will be sentenced by the judge, which is scheduled for Oct. 23 in Colonial Heights Circuit Court.
Samantha Schickler, who said she considered Rusty family, said that “there’s finally justice for Rusty” and that Dacey “honestly deserves to spend the rest of her life in jail.”
During their closing arguments, the prosecution, represented by Stafford County prosecutors George Elsasser and Tara Mooney, argued that Dacey “made a conscious decision, a decision that was brutally callous” when she kicked Mack in the head, and “as a result ... Rusty Mack is dead.”
Blaha, who was dating Dacey when the incident occurred, testified that he was standing behind Dacey when he saw her kick Rusty in the head.
The kick made a noise like the loud thud from kicking a soccer ball, Blaha said.
Dacey was mad because Rusty had splashed water on her, and yelled an expletive at him before she kicked him, Blaha testified.
Later on that night, after police released Dacey, she pridefully said “I really ****ed him up” and laughed, according to Blaha’s testimony.
Blaha said that he had repeatedly told Dacey not to get out of the car when they went to Rusty’s, but she proceeded to exit the vehicle.
“I was nervous. ... [Dacey] seemed excited,” Blaha said.
Rebecca Lawson, who lived in the apartment below Rusty, began to choke up when she remembered the “hollow sounding” thud of Dacey kicking Rusty in the head, and said that he was not able to reach back to protect his fall.
Dacey was “very nonchalant like nothing had happened,” Lawson testified.
Lawson testified that on the night of the incident, she was in her bedroom when she saw headlights flash through her window.
She said that she looked out and saw a white SUV sitting in the driveway, and she heard Rusty yelling from upstairs that the people in the vehicle needed to leave, which they did.
Shortly after, the occupants of the vehicle returned. “They were obviously there to start trouble,” and after she told them to leave through her window, Dacey responded by saying “We’re not going anywhere,” according to Lawson’s testimony.
Michael Lee, the defense attorney, argued that it was not Dacey’s kick that caused Mack’s death, but rather the injuries to his skull were inflicted when he fell to the ground after being pushed by Ashley Mack, and that the prosecution failed to disprove “every reasonable theory” beyond a reasonable doubt.
“I think common sense tells us that Ashley’s push” is much more likely to have caused the skull fracture than Dacey’s kick, Lee stated in his closing arguments.
When Blaha was asked to recall Rusty’s fall after Ashley pushed him, he said, with a level of uncertainty, that Rusty fell backward into a puddle and hit his head on the curb.
Blaha said that before Ashley pushed him, Rusty was screaming explicitly derogatory things as he stepped up to her.
Originally charged with aggravated malicious wounding, the jury lessened the charge to assault and battery in Chesterfield Circuit Court on Friday.
During closing arguments, Lee claimed that to be considered malicious wounding, there must be intent, and that Dacey’s kick was “not a sign of intention. It [was] a sign of reaction, an instant reaction.”
Elsasser claimed that the difference between murder and manslaughter is malice, and the “crux” of determining malice lies in the intent to permanently injure or disfigure somebody.
“You can’t get any more permanent than death,” Elsasser said.
Dr. Kevin Whaley, the forensic pathologist who participated in Mack’s autopsy, said that “a significant amount of force” was required to create the blunt force injury to the skull that was the cause of Mack’s death, according to his testimony during today’s trial.
Based on the autopsy, the story of Dacey’s kick propelling Mack backwards into the curb is consistent with his injuries, Whaley said.
Whaley also testified that, based on the autopsy alone, falling backward and landing on one’s skull from a high level without being able to stop oneself could be consistent with Mack’s injuries. This was in reference to the defense alluding to the possibility that Mack was fatally injured from a different fall rather than the one following Dacey’s kick.
Whaley confirmed that Mack’s blood alcohol content was reported at 0.268 approximately three hours after the incident occurred, and testified that it is often for the Medical Examiner’s Office to see similar head injuries among people who were drinking and fell.
During Michael Mack’s testimony, he cried when he recalled how the officials at Virginia Commonwealth Medical Center told him they had exhausted every effort they could for Rusty, and the family made the difficult decision to pull him off of life support.
Michael said that they watched Rusty for a week after taking him off life support, without even being allowed to touch him, until finally Rusty couldn’t survive on his own any longer.