Testimonies paint conflicting pictures at trial
Lawrence man says father, who was killed, was abusive
By Kristen Bishop
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MOULTON — Conflicting testimonies painted a fuzzy picture Wednesday of what happened the night a Moulton man allegedly beat his 72-year-old father so severely he later died.
The trial of Connie Rae McLemore, now 44, who is charged with manslaughter in the death of Ce-
cil McLemore, continued Wednesday. Manslaughter is a Class B felony punishable by two to 20 years in prison.
Attorneys will present closing arguments Thursday morning. Then the case will go to the jury.
Connie McLemore testified Wednesday that he and his father got into an argument involving a vehicle Sept. 20, 2005, in front of Cecil McLemore’s home at 1715 Lawrence County 173 in Moulton. He hit Cecil McLemore when it appeared that his father was reaching into his pocket to grab a pistol, he said.
“I took one step and jabbed him in the jaw. I had hoped to knock him out,” said Connie McLemore.
The blow failed to stop his father from reaching for his gun, so Connie McLemore struck him again on the left side of his face, he said.
During the punch or shortly after, the two fell to the ground with Connie McLemore on top of his father, he said. He continued to wrestle for what he thought was a gun, he said.
Connie McLemore admitted that he never actually saw the weapon that night, but he and several witnesses testified that Cecil McLemore always kept a pistol in his front pocket and stored many guns in his home.
Bob Ratterree, a family friend who was the only witness to the entire altercation, testified Monday that Connie McLemore had punched and kicked Cecil McLemore repeatedly that night.
After the fight, Cecil McLemore went inside to call police and his son stayed outside for a few minutes before leaving, according to testimony.
“You let him back in that house with all those guns ... the one thing you were afraid of?” asked prosecutor Sonny Reagan of the state attorney general’s office. “Why didn’t you leave when he went in the house?”
Connie McLemore said his father had calmed down before going inside and that he stuck around to talk to Ratterree.
‘Intentions of disarming’
“The fact of the matter is that you hit your father with the intentions of disarming him, and it’s your testimony your father fell to the ground, then went into the house,” said Reagan. “And you’re telling this jury that he wasn’t mad anymore?”
The fight left Cecil McLemore with several knots and bruises, and he was bleeding from his left ear, said police. He went to Lawrence Medical Center about four hours after the altercation.
Doctors found that he was bleeding in his brain, and a urinalysis showed blood in his urine, indicating that he may have also had bleeding in his kidney. He was transferred to the neurological unit at Huntsville Hospital.
Cecil McLemore underwent several surgeries including the removal of his left kidney. He never awoke from his last surgery and died at the hospital Oct. 5, 2005.
His official cause of death was laceration of the left kidney due to blunt force, according to the autopsy report. Dr. Emily Ward, a medical examiner with the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences, ruled the death a homicide.
Ward testified Tuesday that only a kick to the lower back would be strong enough to inflict the kind of injury that caused Cecil McLemore’s death.
Dr. Jim Lauridson, a pathologist paid by the defense to review Cecil McLemore’s medical records and autopsy report, disagreed with the medical examiner’s findings. He said Ward did not examine the removed kidney. Lauridson examined pieces of the kidney removed by a hospital pathologist after the surgery.
He testified that the injuries were not consistent with a single kick to the kidney. Several of Cecil McLemore’s organs had small tears and none of his rib bones were broken.
He said the injuries were consistent with a fall to the side with another adult falling on top of him.
The majority of friends and family members of the McLemores at the trial were opposed to the prosecution and said they hope the jury finds Connie McLemore not guilty.
Many of them testified for the defense as character witnesses, vouching for Cecil McLemore’s history of violence and for his son’s reputation for peacefulness.
The character witnesses included Moulton City Council member Farrol Saint, who said Cecil McLemore had once threatened him with violence.
Connie McLemore testified that his father beat his wife, Wilma McLemore, and his children for years. Cecil McLemore and his wife were separated at the time of his death.
According to Connie McLemore, his father had forced Wilma McLemore out of their home at gunpoint.
He said the night he hit his father was the first time he had stood up to Cecil McLemore.
“I knew my life had changed forever,” he said.
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