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Columbia Missourian

Victim's fiance testifies in Dortch trial

By Roseann Moring
November 17, 2009 | 9:31 p.m. CST
Grady F. Dortch Jr.

FULTON — LaChonia Reid, 28, just wants this week to be over.

“I didn’t want to (have to) be here,” she said.


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She’s staying in a hotel in Fulton, rather than with her three children in Chicago, to testify in the trial of her fiance, Miles Heard, who was shot dead on Election Day last year. The trial is being held in Callaway County.

“I feel like it’s a wound that’s opening back up,” Reid said.

A dispute between onetime friends ended with Heard dead and Grady Dortch on trial for his November 2008 shooting. Dortch was charged with first-degree murder and armed criminal action.

Dortch’s defense attorney said Heard had threatened Dortch and that the death was an accident.

Prosecution witnesses called Tuesday detailed a series of incidents between the two men, which culminated in the shooting.

Reid testified that a few days before Heard died, she and Heard found themselves driving behind Dortch. She said Dortch left a voicemail for Heard that said, “I could have put a bullet in your head right there.”

“It made me feel real uncomfortable, very uncomfortable,” Reid said.

But Heard didn’t take the threats as seriously, she said.

The attorneys and witnesses described a Halloween fight at Peppers Nightclub on Missouri 763.

Boone County Assistant Prosecutor Stephanie Morrell said in opening statements that Dortch reached into a duffel bag as if he had a weapon.

But Boone County Public Defender David Wallis* said the situation was so ridiculous that Dortch's friends were embarrassed because the bag had a picture of the cartoon character Dora the Explorer on it.

“It was so silly, and so absurd, that (his friends) got out of the car, because Grady was putting his hand in the cartoon bag, acting like he had a gun,” Wallis said.

Veronica Washington, Reid's older sister who was with Heard that night, said he hit Dortch 14 times, and Dortch hit Heard once, before friends split them up.

Amanda Campbell, who worked with Dortch, said he later told her about the fight. She said he told her, “I almost turned his white shirt red.”

On Election Day, a beautiful, sunny November day, Heard left the house in the early afternoon, Reid testified. That was the last time she saw him.

Rodney Oliver testified that he was at Douglass Park helping Heard clean out his car, smoking marijuana and drinking. People had gathered at Douglass Park to celebrate because the first black president was about to be elected.

Heard met a man named Michael Pipes a few minutes before he died.

“He was talking to a guy I was talking to and we cordially introduced ourselves to each other,” Pipes said. They laughed and joked for a few minutes, and then Heard said, “Excuse me, bro,” and walked away.

A few minutes later, Pipes testified that he heard gunshots, though he thought they were firecrackers. He looked up to see Heard running, with his hand over his heart.

Oliver looked away as Boone County Assistant Prosecutor Richard Hicks showed him a picture of Heard’s body. Oliver said he grabbed a towel to stop the bleeding and tried to help his friend breathe.

By the time Columbia Police Officer Tim Geiger arrived, people had crowded around Heard, who had blood coming out of his mouth. He was not breathing, Geiger said.

Reid said that while watching the trial was hard — she kept a box of tissues handy — she’ll be there for the rest of the week.

Her children, now ages 6, 8 and 10, still ask for Heard, whom they considered their father.

Her youngest son recently told his biological father on the phone, “I miss my daddy.”

Before the shooting, Reid, a hairdresser, said she couldn’t go to the morgue to work on dead people's hair. Now, she said, she’s more at peace with death and has worked at the morgue since the shooting. 

But she believes she’ll be most at peace when the week is over.

The trial is expected to continue at 9 a.m. Wednesday.