Fight put at hub of homicide; Arkansas man charged with murder in neighbor's shooting death

Madison County trial gets started

Police lights are shown in this file photo.
Police lights are shown in this file photo.

HUNTSVILLE -- Guns, dogs and methamphetamine.

Those will be among the topics discussed at Dale Wayne Bryant's murder trial this week at the Madison County Courthouse, his attorney, Terry Harper, told potential jurors Wednesday.

Bryant, 56, of Combs is charged with first-degree murder in the Aug. 8, 2018, shooting of 30-year-old Samuel Scott Hicks.

Bryant shot Hicks in the back with a 12-gauge shotgun after an argument, according to a probable-cause report. Hicks died at the scene.

Bryant told police that "he was having neighbor troubles," according to the report by Lt. Russell Alberts of the Madison County sheriff's office.

Bryant shot Hicks in self-defense, Harper said during his opening arguments Wednesday afternoon.

Harper painted his client as an upstanding member of the community -- a fourth-generation Madison County resident, football player and class president at St. Paul High School who is now a grandfather.

But Bryant has been continually harassed by the people next door, Harper said.

They played loud music late at night and let their dogs run loose. Cars came and went at all hours. People would shine laser pointers into his windows at night and into Bryant's face as he tried to sleep in a recliner in the living room, Harper said.

"You'll also hear they were probably cooking drugs out there," Harper told the jury.

Harper said Dakota Stillwell lived next door to Bryant in a "single-wide trailer that had been added on to" with a dog pen nearby. Other people stayed on the property in campers.

Harper said Bryant spoke to Stillwell about the problem.

Stillwell said, "I'll take care of it. They are my friends," referring to the people who had been bothering Bryant, Harper said.

Things got better for a few days.

"Then Dale Bryant sees a big, red dog come across his yard," said Harper, referring to the early morning of Aug. 8, 2018. "So he shoots behind the dog, doesn't hit the dog, he doesn't think."

But the dog yelps. It was Stillwell's dog.

Suddenly, Bryant is face to face with Aaron Burnett, who is holding a shotgun, according to Harper. Burnett lives on the Stillwell property.

They calm down. A little.

Then Hicks comes walking up the road, Harper said.

Harper said Stillwell pointed at Hicks and said, "There's the guy you need to talk to. He's the one who's doing all this."

Bryant told Hicks he wanted to talk to him and started walking toward him.

"The next thing you know, Scott Hicks takes his gun from [Bryant] and beats this man unconscious," Harper said.

When Bryant came to, he told the three men they should be in prison, Harper said.

Then, according to Harper, Bryant hears Hicks say, "Give me that gun. I'm going to kill that son of a b***h."

Harper said Bryant got his shotgun and fired a "warning shot" into the trees.

Harper said Hicks bent over by a vehicle where Bryant believed Burnett's shotgun was. Then Hicks raised up with something in his hands, Harper said.

"In fear of his life, Dale Bryant shoots," Harper said.

Prosecutors had a somewhat different story.

"What you're going to hear is Dale Bryant, the defendant, had enough of a bunch of carrying on around his house and how he chose to deal with it with a gun," said Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Brenton Bryant. "Dale Bryant was angry with Dakota and Aaron and maybe Scotty because he thought they were responsible for harassing him at all hours of the night."

Brenton Bryant said Hicks had a new laser pointer that he was playing with in the yard, but not pointing it at Dale Bryant's house.

Hicks didn't live at the Stillwell property at the time of the shooting, said Prosecuting Attorney Matthew Durrett.

"Scott Hicks walks up the driveway to Dakota's house," Brenton Bryant said. "Dale Bryant approached him and whacked him across the face with the butt of the gun." Hicks fought back. He took Dale Bryant's "gun away and threw it to the side."

Brenton Bryant said Dale Bryant became angry when he realized that he had blood on his face.

He was "angry for getting whupped in a fight he started," said the deputy prosecutor.

After the shooting, Dale Bryant went home and called 911. He gave his shotgun to the investigators.

Burnett and the shotgun he had been holding after the dog was shot at didn't turn up for three days, Harper said.

Dr. Jennifer Forsyth, a forensic pathologist with the state Crime Lab, testified that eight buckshot pellets entered Hicks' lower back, and two of the pellets exited his front, near his navel. She said some of the pellets "shredded" vital organs.

Forsyth said blood samples revealed that Hicks had methamphetamine, amphetamine, cannabinoids and nicotine in his system at the time of his death.

The trial is scheduled to resume today and continue through Friday.

For the past year, Dale Bryant has been free on bond.

Metro on 09/12/2019

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