STAUNTON — After sitting in jail for 21 months and listening to two days worth of testimony, Daniel D. Mead, charged in a 2020 killing, was finally given a chance to tell his side of the story Wednesday in Staunton Circuit Court during day three of his trial.
Facing the possibility of life in prison if convicted of first-degree murder, a Staunton jury took more than three hours to find Mead not guilty in the killing of 28-year-old Bradley A. Maurice, a Raphine man who was stabbed at the Springhill Village Apartments.
Mead had been held in jail since his arrest in June 2020.
The soft-spoken Mead, 35, took the stand Wednesday and fielded numerous questions about the deadly encounter with Maurice, a friend of his who had been kicked out of the Valley Mission after failing a breathalyzer test at the Staunton homeless shelter.
After being contacted by Maurice's partner, on June 24, 2020, Mead picked up the couple and their three young children at Thornrose Cemetery in Staunton and took them back to his place at the Springhill Village Apartments. There, Mead said he shared one shot of alcohol with Maurice and Chasity Agee, Maurice's partner.
While at the apartment, Mead gave Maurice a job application from his employer at the time. Evidence showed Maurice listed Mead as a reference, referring to him as a "close friend" on the application. Mead also said he checked his lease and decided he would be able to provide Maurice a place to stay for a week.
"I just wanted to help get him back on his feet," he said.
Afterward, Mead settled into a video game while Agee played with one of her children. "I later realized Brad was in the kitchen drinking," Mead testified.
Mead said he kept cinnamon whiskey, rum and vodka in his freezer, and said he saw Maurice drinking alcohol straight from one of the bottles. "Copious amounts," he said. After putting the booze back in the freezer, Mead said Maurice grew angry.
"He acted irate," he said.
Mead said Maurice then began mumbling. When Mead asked him to repeat himself, Maurice told him, “You ain’t no man.”
Mead said he immediately asked Maurice to leave his apartment. He said Maurice passed him and said it appeared as if he was going to exit the residence. But Maurice, he said, quickly turned around and got in his face, threatening him.
Mead said he grabbed Maurice’s left hand while Agee held his right hand. But when Agee let go, he said Maurice punched him in the lip. His booking photo, entered as evidence, shows Mead with an abnormally large upper lip.
“I realized the situation was escalating rapidly,” he said.
Mead testified he grabbed a butterfly knife that was hidden behind a jewelry box near his front door on a bookcase, and said it was for self-defense. Mead said after he opened and closed the knife in front of Maurice, his friend's demeanor changed and he calmed down.
But when he got into the hallway just outside of the apartment, Maurice once again became irate and began yelling and making threats, Mead said, which were recorded by a bystander and played for the jury. In the recording, he tells Mead he's going to "knock him out."
“I was terrified,” Mead said.
Mead made it down to the parking lot and removed some of the couple’s belongings from his car. Moments later, he said Maurice emerged from the apartment and went down to the parking lot as well. There, he said Maurice started eyeing his car up and down.
Mead testified that he said, “Brad, please don’t do anything to my car.” At that point, Maurice rushed at him and Mead said he pushed him back. Mead then pulled the knife from his pocket “to try and keep him at bay,” he said.
He said Maurice approached him a second time as he held up the knife, and said he pushed him back again, not realizing he'd poked Maurice with the knife.
“The knife did not seem to threaten or bother him at all,” he said.
After a third charge, he slashed at Maurice’s chest. “I couldn’t believe he was still coming at me. I was really scared,” noted Mead, who said he’d never been in a physical altercation.
After a fourth charge, he stabbed Maurice. “We both stood there in shock,” Mead said. "I could not believe I had stabbed one of my best friends.”
Maurice soon collapsed. Mead said he ran to his apartment, put the knife back on the bookcase and grabbed his ID because he knew authorities had already been called to the scene.
“I felt like I was on autopilot,” said Mead, who told police where to find the knife.
Maurice was pronounced dead a short time later.
Mead testified for nearly 2 ½ hours Wednesday before the defense rested its case. “I wanted to help him. I didn’t want him to die,” he said.
A defense witness, Trey Gaither, testified Wednesday he was walking his dog along the back of the apartment complex when he saw Mead and Maurice in a confrontation. He said Maurice appeared to be the aggressor and it looked like he was "trying to provoke a fight." Gaither didn't witness the stabbing.
Another witness, Ciara Jones, testified Tuesday that she saw Mead lean in, pullback and place something in his pocket.
Autopsy photos showed where Maurice was poked, slashed and fatally stabbed, and his blood-alcohol content was measured at.197, more than two times the legal limit to drive in Virginia. A toxicology expert testified Wednesday that Maurice's BAC was the equivalent of about 10 beers.
During closing arguments, Staunton Commonwealth's Attorney Jeff Gaines acknowledged Maurice was drunk and belligerent. "He abused the hospitality of a good friend, but that doesn't mean he has to die and lose everything," the prosecutor said.
Defense attorney William Little II said Maurice was to blame, and said his client's actions were self-defense. "That man was not stopping," he told the jury.
Mead and Maurice had been friends for about seven years.
"From the vey first day that I met him, I believed in his innocence and I knew I could prove it," said Little, who contended during the trial that Maurice ran into the blade.
"Daniel didn't stab Brad. Brad stabbed Brad," he said.
The jury had options to convict Mead of a lesser charge, such as second-degree murder or manslaughter, but acquitted him instead.
Staunton Chief Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Joseph Perry, who handled the case with Gaines, declined comment following the trial when asked about the jury's verdict.
To subscribe, visit www.newsleader.com and click "subscribe" at top of page.
Brad Zinn is the cops, courts and breaking news reporter at The News Leader. Have a news tip? Or something that needs investigating? You can email reporter Brad Zinn (he/him) at email@example.com. You can also follow him on Twitter.
This article originally appeared on Staunton News Leader: Staunton man found not guilty of first-degree murder