FAIRMONT, W.Va. – The murder trial of James Vincent in Marion County reached its fourth day on Thursday, with two co-defendants in the case taking the stand.
Charles “Zach” Carpenter, who previously pleaded guilty to malicious assault and conspiracy in the case, took the stand. He testified that Vincent reacted to Luka Grabb making a sudden movement, and that he believed Grabb was reaching for a gun. He stated that he saw Vincent shoot Grabb, but he did not recall Vincent hitting him beforehand.
Carpenter told the jury he did not think Vincent was trying to kill Grabb and that Vincent was pointing the gun down toward the ground. Moreover, he testified that Vincent did not further attack Grabb following the shooting, nor did he instruct anyone else to attack him.
Carpenter said after the shots had been fired, everyone, including Vincent, was panicking. He also stated that he and Vincent were friends, and he was not aware of any plans that evening to attack Grabb.
Carpenter stated that he helped Vernon “Junior” Carpenter in getting Grabb into Junior’s vehicle and driving with him.
The prosecution asked Charles Carpenter about prior testimony that Grabb may have been scratching himself and not reaching for a gun, to which he replied that he could not tell because it all happened so fast. The prosecution also told him that Vincent had contacted every individual who was there and texted them about Grabb, something Charles Carpenter said he knew nothing about. He also said he did not know Grabb would be there that night.
As to his own involvement, Charles Carpenter told jurors he helped drag Grabb to a vehicle, and when asked whether or not he thought Grabb was going to die, he said he knew it was not good for him. When asked if he knew Grabb had a gun, he replied that everyone in that circle had a gun.
The defense went back and asked Charles Carpenter again about the moment of the shooting. He affirmed that tension was building, and Grabb looked to be reaching for something; Vincent then reacted and fired toward the ground.
The defense called Vernon “Junior” Carpenter to testify. He stated that he did not know about the existence of a tape of Grabb saying he planned to rob Vincent until the confrontation took place. He said there was a scuffle, and then Grabb reached into his coat pocket. During this scuffle, Vernon Carpenter said Grabb punched Vincent.
Vernon Carpenter told jurors he did not see the shots being fired; he then clarified to say he did, but it happened so fast. He also said it did not look like Vincent tried to kill Grabb, and he thought four shots had been fired. He also stated he was not expecting any shots to be fired.
Vernon Carpenter also testified that he helped drag Grabb to a vehicle, which he said was not his. He did say that he drove Grabb away from the scene after Vincent told him to get him help. Vernon Carpenter said he drove Grabb to Pinchgut Hollow Road and let him out of the vehicle.
When asked why he did not get help for Grabb, Vernon Carpenter stated that he was not thinking, and he used stupid judgment. He said the trip took 10 to 15 minutes.
Vernon Carpenter explained that he is in jail for voluntary manslaughter, because he failed to get Grabb help after the shooting. He negotiated a deal with the prosecution to avoid a trial.
The prosecution questioned Vernon Carpenter again, and he said he did not know there would be that many people at Vincent’s house that night. He also explained that he never heard the tape of Grabb stating his plan to rob Vincent, and he only learned of the tape when the fight started. He also stated that he and Vincent texted each other several times that evening, and he deleted these messages.
Vernon Carpenter testified that he took the borrowed vehicle back to its owner, and that he had to clean it out because it was blood soaked. He also stated that he has never shot anyone or ever pulled a gun on someone.
As for the fight, Vernon Carpenter said Grabb was screaming at Vincent at close range, but he stated that Vincent did not hit Grabb with a stick.
Vernon Carpenter reiterated that he did not do what Vincent told him to do, since he did not get Grabb help. He also confirmed that he and another man had cell phones and could have called 911 but did not. The prosecution then played a conversation between Vernon Carpenter and Vincent from jail, and he confirmed that at no point did Vincent seem angry with him for not taking Grabb to a hospital.
Finally, when asked by the defense whether there was anything that made him believe Vincent wanted Grabb to die, Vernon Carpenter said no.
The trial will continue into Friday.
Charles Carpenter is serving his sentence in the Pruntytown Correctional Center, while Vernon Carpenter is being held in the Tygart Valley Regional Jail.