Jury still out in Riley trial
Published 12:11 pm Monday, August 3, 2009
By By MaryClaire Foster
A jury was still deliberating Friday afternoon to determine whether Terry Riley was guilty of murder.
Larry Howard died the night of April 19, 2008, of a single stab wound to the heart.
Howard was found dead at the front porch of the trailer he shared with Riley after leaving a neighbor’s party where they were both in attendance. According to autopsy reports, Howard died from a single stab wound from a sharp object in the heart.
The lack of a murder weapon was a main point of contention for the defense, lawyer Jerome Carter said, and one of the main reasons behind the request for an acquittal Thursday, which was denied.
After police searched the scene as well as Riley’s trailer and neighbor and sister Alberta Riley’s trailer, no murder weapon was found. In fact, no knives, a probable weapon, at all were found at the home of Riley and two were taken from the home of Alberta Riley, but no traces of blood were found on them.
An Old Timer pocket knife carried by Riley was twicetaken into possession of law enforcement, but returned to him.
Terry Sanders, who at the time was an investigator with the Escambia County Sheriff’s office, testified he regretted the knife not being forensically tested when it was first in their possession instead of being returned to Riley.
Escambia County District Attorney Steve Billy said Riley, over the course of the case, has given several accounts of the events of the night.
What is known is that both Howard and Riley were at a party at the home of Glenn Brown the evening of the murder. Howard was asked to leave the party by Brown after a female guest complained about Howard’s intoxication.
Home was approximately 400 feet away, slightly more than a football field length, in a neighboring trailer park.
Brown went on to testify that upon Howard’s departure, Riley approached him and inquired what had transpired between the two.
Brown said Riley replied with, “He’s not going to my damn house.”
That dialogue was brought up by the state several times during the case as a possible motive for Riley to stab Howard.
Brown also testified that Riley did not seem mad at the time.
According to testimony from both Brown and Riley, approximately 10 minutes later Riley, after heading in the direction of Howard towards their shared trailer, returned to Brown’s home.
At that point, Riley walked up to Brown and asked him to call 911, explaining that he thought Howard had been stabbed. Both men said it took some prompting from Riley to convince Brown he was serious.
The state said that Riley, if truly distraught over Howard being injured, would have been noticeably upset and not had to convince Riley he was being serious.
Riley took the stand as the first witness for the defense Thursday afternoon.
Riley testified that after leaving the party he was walking home behind Howard when Howard turned in the direction of Alberta Riley’s trailer and Riley continued to walk toward his own trailer.
Riley testified that after unlocking his front door, he turned and saw Howard staggering towards the front porch and assumed he was just inebriated. Riley said Howard stopped at the bottom of the steps and stared at him, which prompted Riley to reach a hand out to Howard.
According to Riley, Howard reached a hand out but then fell.
Riley said he then reached down to try and pick him up and noticed the blood. He then ran back to Brown’s house to get help, slowing to a walk before he got there because he was out of shape.
Under cross examination by the state, Billy asked Riley why he had given several different accounts of the events of that night. Riley repeatedly responded he did not understand why other witnesses had twisted his words around, but that they did not give accurate accounts
of the version of events as told to them by Riley.
Billy suggested Riley was tired of Howard’s behavior when he drank and that there was tension between Riley and Howard over money and belongings.
On the stand, Riley repeatedly said, “I did not kill Larry Howard.”