LUMBERTON — Prosecutor Tony Berk said Wednesday during opening statements in the Drew Floyd second-degree murder trial that the fight that led to the fatal stabbing of Chad Arnette almost didn’t happen.
Berk laid out for the jury the prosecution’s account of what happened the night of Feb. 14, 2007, starting with a “somewhat innocuous” text message Arnette sent to Floyd’s girlfriend, Ashlee Hardin, that said, “What’s up?”
Arnette and Hardin had been friends for years, he said.
Berk said Hardin showed Floyd the text that night while they were at the home of Chris McGirt. Floyd’s friend Adam Rozier, who is facing charges of aiding and abetting to second-degree murder, was also there. Floyd sent a text to Arnette threatening to kill him, Berk said.
Arnette called Floyd and an argument ensued during which Rozier “inserted himself,” Berk said. Floyd and Rozier challenged Arnette to meet up and “sort this out,” he said.
The meeting, which included five people, happened soon afterward at the Big Lots parking lot on Roberts Avenue.
Berk said Arnette and his friend, Lee Anthony Hunt, saw Floyd’s truck approaching in the parking lot. As Arnette got out of his truck, he grabbed a T-ball bat from the truck, Berk said.
The initial conflict, he said, was “more an argument about ‘put the bat down’ than anything else.” During the argument, Floyd grabbed a butcher knife that was in his truck, but McGirt, who’d come with Floyd and Rozier, took the knife from Floyd and said, “That’s not necessary,” and placed the knife on the truck’s hood, Berk said.
Arnette and Floyd hadn’t approached each other at that point, according to Berk. “After a few minutes, they agreed to part — no fight,” he said.
Berk said the five were getting back into their vehicles to leave when Rozier said, “This isn’t over yet,” at which point Rozier began shouting at Arnette. The two got into a heated argument during which Arnette again attempted to leave, Berk said.
Rozier “charged” Arnette, and Floyd grabbed Rozier to prevent a fight, Berk said. Rozier again rushed toward Arnette and began swinging at him, and Arnette hit Rozier with the bat, at which point McGirt and Floyd rushed over, Berk said.
McGirt grabbed Arnette’s arms and the bat and ripped the bat from Arnette’s hands, Berk said. He then smashed the bat on the ground, breaking it in half.
“And in that moment, Drew Floyd stabbed Chad with the butcher knife,” he said.
Arnette and Hunt then got in Arnette’s truck and took off down Roberts Avenue toward Southeastern Regional Medical Center, with Arnette driving, he said.
But Arnette passed out from blood loss, and his Ford F-150 jumped the curb and crashed through the front of a furniture and appliance store.
An autopsy concluded that he died from a single stab wound to the abdomen, Berk said.
He told the jurors they can expect testimony from Hunt and McGirt on what happened in the parking lot, and earlier at McGirt’s house.
Berk said Floyd actually took two knives to the parking lot and disposed of them both after the stabbing, throwing one into the woods behind the store, and throwing the other into a field near Rozier’s home. Both knives were recovered, he said.
Defense attorney Billy Richardson said much of the evidence was agreed upon by both sides, but that there are some differences.
He said there were multiple calls and texts and several requests for Arnette to quit contacting Hardin, and that Floyd “used a poor choice of words” when he texted the alleged death threat to Arnette.
Richardson said the two knives belonging to Floyd were hunting knives that Floyd, an “avid hunter,” kept in his truck.
“It wasn’t like they were taken there with him to go to this meeting,” he said. “… You will see this is a good kid. This is a nice young man. Chad had a reputation of fighting. Drew was afraid of him.”
Richardson said that during the phone conversation outside the McGirt house that night, Floyd was inside the house and had no part in setting up the parking lot meeting.
“It was Adam and Chad that arranged to go out there, not Drew,” he said.
He said, when the vehicles arrived at the parking lot, only Arnette exited with a weapon.
Arnette and Floyd were prepared to leave after they’d had their words, he said. “Chad agreed that he was wrong and he wasn’t going to text [Hardin] anymore … Drew said, ‘I’m fine. Let’s go our separate ways,” he said.
While the men were getting back into their trucks and preparing to leave, Arnette pointed the bat at Rozier and “said something,” Richardson said. At that point, Rozier began walking toward Arnette and Floyd tried to restrain him, he said.
Richardson said that when Rozier and Floyd attempted to leave, Arnette again provoked Rozier, who walked toward Arnette. While Rozier was talking to Arnette, Rozier turned to motion to Floyd and Arnette struck him with the bat, knocking him to his knees.
Richardson said Arnette struck Rozier three more times.
“What is he supposed to do? Is he supposed to stand there and watch his friend get beat to death?” he said.
Richardson said Floyd and McGirt approached Arnette to disarm him.
“They all bump into each other, and he gets pulled into him,” he said. “Drew will tell you he didn’t know if he stabbed him or not … It all happened at one time.
“Common sense will tell you, and evidence will show, that this is not a murder. This is a situation where an inexperienced young man in an awful situation had to act on a split second.”
The prosecution began presenting witnesses on Wednesday.