Dortch found guilty in murder trial

Thursday, November 19, 2009 | 7:54 p.m. CST; updated 10:53 p.m. CST, Thursday, November 19, 2009

FULTON — At 2:15 p.m. Wednesday, Grady Dortch, 29, was laughing, leaning back in a leather chair and eating potato chips. Less than 90 minutes later he was found guilty of premeditated murder.

A Callaway County jury found Dortch guilty of  first-degree murder in the Douglass Park shooting of Miles Heard, 29, on Nov. 4, 2008. Dortch, standing during the reading, swiveled from left to right and sat down before Judge Gene Hamilton read the jury's second verdict, guilty of armed criminal action.

Dortch faces a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole for the murder conviction. A sentencing hearing will be held Dec. 21.

During closing arguments earlier in the day, an animated Boone County Assistant Prosecutor Richard Hicks said Dortch began contemplating the murder following an incident with Heard at Peppers Nightclub the previous week. Hicks said Dortch threatened to pull a gun on Heard and when Heard called his bluff, Dortch was embarrassed.

"Where's his street cred now?" Hicks said. "That's what it's about."

Boone County Public Defender David Wallis said Dortch was acting in self-defense when he shot and killed Heard. Wallis cited testimony from witnesses who said Heard approached Dortch in an aggressive manner, yelling obscenities as he began walking toward Dortch's car.

Wallis also said there was no premeditation involved in the shooting.

"Not one fact has come into this trial that Grady threatened Miles," Wallis said. "Not one credible fact."

Dortch obtained the gun used in the shooting for protection, Wallis said.

"In Grady Dortch's world you can't count on the police, you can't trust the police," Wallis said.

In his rebuttal, Hicks disputed Wallis' statement that Dortch lives in a different world.

"We live in one world," Hicks said, while his voice raised in volume. "Miles didn't deserve to be gunned down by his best friend. This was cold-blooded murder at 12:30 in the afternoon."

The judge dismissed the jury around 1:45 to begin deliberations. Dortch spent the time between the jury's dismissal and its verdict laughing and joking with Callaway County Sheriff Dennis Crane and his deputies.

"I ain't the greatest with the Columbia Police Department," Dortch said at one point.

"Whose fault is that?" Crane asked laughing.

"They stereotype," Dortch responded, also laughing.

Just before the jury returned from almost two hours of deliberation, Dortch put on his glasses and stared out the window until a curtain was drawn by one of the deputies.

As the guilty verdict was read, Heard's fiancee, LaChonia Reid, 28, and his mother, Shirley Heard, 52, squeezed each other tightly.

Following the jury's release, Dortch hunched over and stared at his hands, which he had placed on a table. As Hamilton began discussing a sentencing date with Wallis, he removed an asthma inhaler from his pocket and began drawing air from it.

Outside of the courtroom, Shirley Heard said Dortch looked in her direction following the verdict and said "I'll be back." Hicks said he did not hear Dortch make the statement, but added that a number of people in the gallery said they heard the same thing.

Heard and Reid were set to be married on May 9, 2009. "We were ready for it," a choked up Shirley Heard said.

"It was going to be the family's first wedding," Reid added.

Both Reid and Shirley Heard said they were pleased with the jury's verdict.

"He's a good man and he didn't deserve to be taken from me," Heard said of her son. "He didn't deserve to go that way."

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