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Marine Found Not Guilty In
Shooting Death Of His Fiance
BY ERIC CARLSON
Members of a Brunswick County jury said
ihey could not find enough evidence to convict a
U.S. Marine corpora! who admitted under oath
that he fatally shot his girlfriend in the throat and
punched her business associate in the face.
Cpl. Alfonza Lee Staley, 25, of Camp
Lcjcune, was found not guilty Monday of first de
gree murder in the shooting death of Stephanie
Bradley at her Leland mobile home last May 31.
He was also acquitted on a charge of assault in
flicting serious injury against Richard Ballard.
After a week of testimony, the jury of eight
women and four men deliberated about two and a
half hours Monday before returning with the not
Staley, neatly dressed in his Marine uniform,
sat quietly at the defense table and stared intently
as Court Clerk Lisa Aycock read the verdict.
When the words "not guilty" were spoken a sec
ond time, Staley turned away from the near empty
courtroom gallery, covered his face ;tn<1 rri<yj.
Juror Ralph Heil asked Judge Craig Ellis why
Staley's cellmate was not called to testify in sup
port of a written statement in which he allegedly
claimed Staley admitted shooting Rradlcy after
she grabbed the gun he had thrust under her chin.
Heil also said the jury wondered why a paraf
fin test was not conducted after the shooting to
determine in which hand Staley was holding the
gun when it discharged into his fiancee's brain.
"Wouldn't it have been routine to get a paraffin
test?" Heil asked the judge. He said the question of
how Staley held the gun "had a strong bearing" on
the jury's decision.
"You have to decide based on the evidence
given in court?unfortunately or fortunately,"
Judge Ellis said.
Staley testified that he is naturally right hand
ed. But he said he was holding the ,25-calibcr pis
tol in his left hand when it accidentally went off
as he pushed Bradley away to discourage her
from hugging him. ?
He said he wanted to keep his right hand free
to protect himself against a possible attack by
Ballard, whom he had just punched in the face
and pushed out the door of Bradley's trailer.
A paraffin test is used to help determine if a
person has fired a gun. It is administered by wip
ing a suspect's hand with a swab and conducting
a laboratory analysis for the presence of gunpow
Assistant District Attorney Lee Bollinger,
who prosecuted the ease, said arresting officers
did not conduct the test because Stalcy readily ad
mitted shooting Bradley.
"Nobody foresaw that as an issue," Bollinger
said. "You don't normally take fingerprints at the
sccnc of a break-in when you have a suspect who
admits committing the burglary. Mr. Stalcy did
not start making claims about left hand, right
hand until he got on the stand to testify."
Bollinger said he did not call Stalcy's ccll
matc, William Eugene Webb, because he "ab
solutely refused to come to court." He said Webb,
who is awaiting trial on several felony charges,
would have had to be "shackled to the witness
box" to get him to testify.
"! don't think lie would liuvc made a vciy
good witness under those circumstances,"
The prosecution claimed that Stalcy shot his
girlfriend in a fit of jealousy after finding hci alone
in her trailer w ith Ballard, who said he was there to
collect some money she owed him. The two
worked together in a small-scale art sales and pic
ture framing business.
According to Bollinger, Stalcy testified that
he was visiting Bradley for the weekend and had
attended a birthday party for her son. He said he
left the party and sat in his car for several hours
while Bradley took all the party guests home ex
Stalcy said he walked back to the trailer,
looked through the window and saw Ballard ex
pose himself to Bradley. Stalcy said he went in
side a short time later and found the two arguing.
Ballard refused to leave until Staley said he
punched him and threatened him with the gun.
Ballard testified that he did not make sexual
advances toward Bradley. He said he left the trail
er after Staley unexpectedly hit him with a blunt
object and pushed him out the door. As he drove
off, he said he saw Stalcy inside the trailer hold
ing a gun.
Stalcy claimed he didn't realize he still had
the pistol in his left hand when Bradley tried to
hug him and assure him that she hadn't been
raped, Bollinger said. Stalcy said he pushed her
away and the gun went off by accidcnt.
Jacksonville Medical Examiner Dr. Walter
Gable testified that the fatal bullet was fired at a
distance of about 18 inches from the right side of
An SBI firearms expert who examined the
weapon said the gun operated properly and would
not fire unless a normal amount of pressure was
applied to the trigger, Bollinger said.
Law cntorcemcnt officers testified that Stalcy
called 911 to report the shooting and then went
outside to flag down a deputy. They said Stalcy
admitted shooting Bradley and showed them the
weapon. The said he had given her first aid treat
ment. She was pronounced dead on arrival at
New Hanover kegionai Medical Center.
Outside the courtroom, Hcil said that on the
jury's first vote a majority immediately felt Stalcy
should be acquitted. He said the state's case "was
not substantiated with evidence" and left reason
able doubt as to Stalcy's guilt.
"The evidence just wasn't there," Heil said.
Admitting surprise at the verdict, Bollinger
said he thought the jury put more weight on
Staley's actions after the shooting than on the act
"They apparently believed the testimony of a
clean-cut, eight-year Marine and a veteran of
Desert Storm with no prior record who did every
thing lie could to keep a woman alive after shoot
ing her," Bollinger said.
The prosecutor also said it was difficult to
overcome the fact that Bradley's mother and sis
ter believed Staley's claim "from day one" that
the shooting was accidental. Both testified in his
defense at the trial.
"You have to believe in the jury system even
if you don't agree with a jury's decision,"
Bollinger said. "But what you basically have here
is a guy who's gotten away with a crime of pas
SET FOR MARCH 27
Union Elementary PTO
Greets Spring With A Fling
Pony rides, hoi dogs, hula hoop
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Union Elementary School PTO's
Spring Ring will feature all these
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The day begins with a yard sale
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