MANSFIELD — The sister of Joshua W. Merritt testified Thursday she saw her brother stabbed outside the Cyclone Bar on Laver Road early Sunday, and identified the assailant as 42-year-old Delbert Williams.
Jessica Armstrong, of Mansfield, was one of three witnesses who testified in Mansfield Municipal Court during a preliminary hearing on a murder charge against Williams, whose most recent address is 44 Brookwood Way, Mansfield.
“I was on my knees trying to get up when I looked up and saw him (indicating Williams) give my brother an uppercut and my brother yelled ‘He stabbed me! He stabbed me!’ ” Armstrong told the court. “I went over to my brother and he was bleeding from the chest.”
Williams is accused of stabbing Merritt, who was trying to break up a fight between two women. The incident took place just after closing hours.
Williams was convicted of stabbing three men in Crestline in 1989, and another in 1991.
Armstrong testified she went to the Cyclone Bar with her brother and two sisters a little after 11 p.m. Saturday, and that each had “a couple” of shots during the course of the evening. At closing time, Armstrong said, she was watching bouncers trying to get two women to leave when she was jumped from behind by another woman. They got into a fight that lasted possibly several minutes before someone she could not identify pulled them apart, she said.
Near the end of Armstrong’s testimony, Judge Jerry Ault warned Williams he would be removed from the courtroom if he continued to make gestures and facial expressions. There also was a brief exchange between Williams’ supporters and Armstrong as she left the witness stand.
One of more than a dozen supporters loudly said “This is ridiculous,” while others grumbled loudly.
Armstrong responded, “My brother is dead. That’s ridiculous.”
Since Armstrong was the last witness, court personnel ordered the courtroom cleared. They escorted Williams’ supporters out the main doors into the hallway and took Merritt’s family and friends outside in the opposite direction.
Also testifying Thursday was Kenneth Thoman, of Mansfield. He told the court the first time he saw Williams was right after closing, when he noticed a man in a red shirt walking around the outside the bar with a woman involved in an earlier incident. He said he was breaking up a subsequent fight when he heard Merritt was stabbed, but did not witness the incident himself.
After the stabbing, he said he saw the man in the red shirt, whom he identified as Williams, leave the scene in a black SUV.
Richland County Sheriff’s detective Bob Mack spent the most time on the witness stand testifying about the initial investigation. He said a number of witnesses told investigators they saw Williams and Merritt fighting, but that none of them saw the actual stabbing.
A second man, 31-year-old Jonathan Allen, of Marion, has been charged with obstruction of justice. His preliminary hearing is next week.
Mack said two women provided the initial information that led investigators to the suspects. Under cross examination by defense attorney Ralph Bove, he said one of the women was intoxicated and belligerent and had to be held in jail for eight hours to recover before she was questioned.
Judge Ault bound the case over to a Richland County grand jury and agreed with a prosecution motion to raise Williams’ bond from $500,000 and personal recognizance to $1 million and personal recognizance. First Assistant prosecutor Brent Robinson said he expects the case to be presented to the next available grand jury in June.
The MNJ link to this story – 4 comments – lol! – http://www.mansfieldnewsjournal.com/article/20120511/NEWS01/205110308/Witnesses-describe-night-Mansfield-stabbing