Trial begins in case of man accused of killing girlfriend

Had April Brooks not taken a baseball bat into Edward Stokley's home, things might have turned out differently at 538 Bishop Drive on April 29, 2009, defense attorney Tom Griffiths suggested to a jury Monday.

Stokley, then 34, shot his girlfriend, Lavena Gibson, 25, four times — twice in the chest and twice in the left leg — while she was outside the house with Brooks, Brooks' sister and an 8-month-old baby, prosecutor Cindy Rieker said.

Gibson died on the operating table that day at University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital.

Stokley, who does not deny shooting Gibson, is on trial this week for murder. He also is charged with three counts of wanton endangerment, and being a convicted felon in possession of a handgun and a persistent felony offender.

"At the end of this case, you're going to find him guilty of something. He knows that," Griffiths told the Fayette Circuit Court jury during opening arguments Monday.

Gibson and Stokley had had an on-again, off-again relationship for years. Before the shooting, the two had been living with Stokley's mother, Barbara Stokley, at the Bishop Drive house. The couple had been arguing in the days just before the shooting. Gibson left, telling the Stokleys she was going to a grocery store, attorneys involved in the case said.

She didn't return.

In the meantime, Edward Stokley called Gibson's mother in Colorado, telling her, "I am going to kill your baby for leaving me," Rieker told the jury.

On the day she was shot, Gibson went to the Bishop Drive house to get her belongings. She drove there with her friends, sisters Angela and April Brooks, along with Angela's infant daughter. Gibson went inside; Stokley, who had been on the back patio, went to the car and began ripping out the radio in the vehicle. He went inside the house after his mother came to the door and told him to stop.

Neighbors and Gibson's friends in the car heard arguing inside the home. April Brooks, armed with a bat, went inside to protect her friend. Stokley was in the kitchen, beating Gibson.

Stokley pointed a gun at Brooks, and she ran back to car. Gibson, who got away from Stokley while his mother held on to him, also ran to the car, where her friends were waiting.

Stokley broke free from his mother, ripping the shirt from his back, then went outside and began shooting into the car, Rieker said.

At some point, Gibson got out of the car, and Stokley continued shooting, Rieker said.

Griffiths said Stokley had had no particular plans on April 29, 2009, other than to be with his mother, and possibly his sister, and to visit friends on the east end of town.

He always carried a gun when he went to the east end, a rougher neighborhood than the area where he lived, Griffiths said. Stokley did not take the gun out of his pocket when he got back home, the lawyer said.

After Gibson drove up, Stokley took the radio from the car, which he and Gibson had shared, because the radio was his, the attorney said.

Griffiths, who said that Stokley and Gibson had put their hands on each other during fights in the past, described what went on in the kitchen as fighting. Stokley took his gun out of his pocket after he saw someone over his shoulder holding up a bat, Griffiths said.

Stokley complained of chest pains after he fled the scene and was tracked down by police, the attorneys in the case said.

Stokley sobbed when he heard that Gibson had died and that he would be charged with murder, Griffiths said.