Prosecution, defense rest in case against McCools

Published 7:00 am Friday, February 1, 2019

During the final day of testimony of the case against Michael McCool and his father Audy McCool in relation to a fatal shoot out that occurred at a Henleyfield area gun store back in January of 2016, the defense asked the presiding judge for directed verdicts on all charges.

The case involves the shooting deaths of Jason and Jacob McLemore, who were shot to death by Michael McCool on the day of Jan. 23, three years ago. The shootout began as a dispute by Michael McCool over a $25 fee to have his gun returned because the business owner, Jason, had already ordered the parts Michael requested.

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During Thursday’s court proceedings, defense attorney Jonathan Adam Miller asked 15th District Court Judge Claiborne “Buddy” McDonald for directed verdicts on all charges against his clients.

Miller made the request because he felt the prosecution, led by 15th Assistant District Attorney Clay Cranford, failed to provide sufficient evidence that Michael did not act out of self-defense. That, combined with the only other witness to the incident, Melanie McLemore, could not state who shot first during the altercation while on the stand. Miller said that means Michael’s testimony given on the day of the altercation of the McLemore’s firing first would be the only account the court should consider since, to Miller, there was no state evidence to the contrary.

Miller also asked that the court issue directed verdicts on both counts of accessory after the fact of murder against Audy McCool. One count is for failing to turn in a cellphone belonging to Michael to law enforcement the day of the incident, and the second is for removing Michael’s firearm from the scene before putting it in a bag and storing it in their vehicle the day of the incident.

Cranford contested all requests for directed verdicts, stating that there were a total of three guns in the possession of three of the four people involved in the altercation. Jason McLemore, 44 at the time of his death, and Jacob McLemore, 17 at the time of his death, were both carrying firearms, and Michael also possessed a firearm that day. Cranford alluded to the fact that Michael had a prior conviction before Jan. 23, 2016, but did not elaborate in his argument against the requests for a directed verdict. Of those three people carrying firearms, only Michael was able to fire five shots. Jason was able to fire one shot from his gun, and Jacob’s was still secured in its holster, fully loaded. Cranford added that there was no evidence to suggest the bullet fired from Jason’s gun hit a person, since it was later determined to have passed through a booth and product rack in the business.

Additionally, Cranford said that it is a fact that both McLemore’s suffered three gunshot wounds each, and both men died from their wounds. Cranford said that Michael’s behavior of angrily disputing the $25 fee the day of the incident, even when he knew about it the day prior, further leads Cranford to request McDonald to deny Miller’s request. Other evidence Cranford quoted entailed the variance in Michael’s two statements to law enforcement the day the incident occurred. Cranford also said that Micheal claimed to have been cut by Jacob, but DNA testing of Jacob’s knife found only Jacob’s blood on it.

Miller contended that the the McLemore’s suffering a total of six bullet wounds when Michael’s gun was missing only five rounds lends to the mystery of who really fired the shot that killed Jacob.

As to the charges against Audy, Miller said that the state never produced evidence that Michael’s phone was at the gun store the day of the shooting and when asked, the defendant turned over the phone and the passcode to access it. In relation to the gun being moved to the vehicle, Miller said that when law enforcement asked for the gun, Audy willingly gave it to them.

Cranford added that a wallet carried by one of the McCools at the time of the incident had $25 in it, meaning they knew of the fee prior to arriving at the gun store that day.

McDonald ruled that only the accessory after the fact of murder charge against Audy for the cellphone be granted a directed verdict. He said evidence presented in relation to the two murder charges against Michael could potentially lead a reasonable jury to guilty verdicts. McDonald said he denied the directed verdict for the gun because Audy put the gun in a bag before putting it in the vehicle. Audy having the presence of mind to hide the gun showed that he knew its presence at the scene would be detrimental.

By Thursday afternoon, the jury was dismissed to the jury room to deliberate on a verdict. By late Thursday afternoon, 15th District Attorney Hal Kittrell said a verdict had not been rendered.