MOUNT STERLING — Something wasn't right about the way Randy Lacy's police cruiser came down U.S. 15 toward Stanton on June 13, 2007.
The Clay City police chief's car went airborne for a few yards before it landed in a ditch off the side of the road.
Seconds after the car stopped, a handcuffed James H. “Jamie” Barnett kicked out the back window of the cruiser, crawled out and attempted to jog away, drivers who were the first witnesses at the scene testified Thursday.
It was then they knew that something terrible had happened to Clay City's sole police officer.
The witnesses took the stand Thursday during the first day of testimony in the capital murder trial of Barnett, who is accused of fatally shooting Lacy in the cruiser seconds before it crashed.
One witness, Penny Neria of Clay City, testified that she parked and walked over to the cruiser after she saw Barnett crawl out and identified Lacy in the driver's seat.
“It was a mess. There was blood everywhere,” she said.
Betsy Moore and her son Allen Fields of Clay City had also pulled over to help. Fields said he chased after Barnett, who was jogging down the road, and made him sit on the ground until police arrived.
“He said he didn't do it, Lacy was beating him,” Fields said.
The families of Lacy and Barnett cried during much of the day's testimony and opening statements that outlined the day of Lacy's murder.
Lacy had arrested Barnett on June 13 on a drunken-driving charge and handcuffed him with his hands in front, something he often did with people he was familiar with, witnesses testified.
Commonwealth's Attorney Darrell Herald told jurors during opening arguments that Barnett reached through a plexiglass partition in Lacy's police car to get a gun Lacy kept as a backup. It was sitting on the passenger seat of the cruiser.
The police chief was out of the car collecting evidence when Barnett took the gun, Herald said. Barnett hid the pistol and shot Lacy while he was driving toward the Powell County jail in Stanton.
Defense attorney Marcus Jones told jurors that they needed to explore the reasons Barnett shot Lacy.
Jones said Barnett was extremely intoxicated and a danger to himself that day.
“I ask you to try him with wisdom and patience,” he said.
Jones said Barnett is remorseful for what he did and how he has disappointed the Powell County community.
“His life has become a living nightmare that he can't wake up from,” Jones said.
Jones did not bring up Barnett's IQ, which was a major point of debate in the months leading up to the trial.
Attorneys for Barnett, 38, have argued that he is mentally disabled and therefore not eligible for capital punishment.
On Monday, Powell Circuit Judge Frank Fletcher ruled that the prosecution can seek the death penalty. Last week, he ruled that Barnett was mentally competent to stand trial.
Family members also testified Thursday.
Lacy's widow, Ruth Lacy, briefly took the stand. She testified that she and her husband had been married for 29 years. She said June 13 began as “an ordinary work day” for her husband.
Lacy's brother Garland Lacy, a Powell County sheriff's deputy, was one of the first officers to arrive at the scene on U.S. 15. He said Barnett covered his head when Garland Lacy approached the cruiser.
“He seemed to be afraid of me,” he testified.
Garland said he knew his brother was murdered when he saw all the blood in the cruiser and tried to take Randy Lacy's pulse.
“By looking at that, I knew there wasn't any chance he would be alive,” he said.
Barnett could get the death penalty if convicted.
The trial, which was moved from Stanton to Mount Sterling because of pretrial publicity, is expected to last at least two weeks.