Shannon, TX Man on trial in neighbor's killing

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Postby cheekymunkee » August 10th, 2008, 1:52 am

Man on trial in neighbor's killing

Matt Kelton
For the Times Record News
Friday, August 8, 2008

The trial of a Shannon, Texas, man accused of killing his neighbor in a dispute over a dog began Thursday in the 97th District Court in Henrietta.

Rickey Lee Davis, 54, is on trial for shooting George Stephen Rater while Rater was walking from his pickup to his mother’s house March 1, 2007. Davis is thought to have believed that Rater, 45, shot the family’s pit bull earlier that day.

Rater was shot with a 40-caliber assault rifle the defense claims a fellow church member loaned to Davis for self-defense. Eight 40-caliber shell casings were found on or near the Davises’ back porch. Rater was shot twice in the chest.

Trouble began between the two families when Rater’s daughter and son-in-law, Bobby and Kristin Morrison, moved into a house near the Davises.

On several occasions, said District Attorney Jack McGaughey in his opening statement, the dog came into the Morrison’s yard and displayed threatening behavior toward the family, including a young child. The Clay County Sheriff’s Office had received several reports of the pit bull running loose in Shannon, but by the time officers would arrive, the dog would be confined. Shannon is 26 miles south of Henrietta.

The evening of March 1, Clay County 911 received a call from Alice Davis, wife of Rickey Lee, saying the dog had been shot. “It was a flatbed, white pickup,” said Davis during the call, a recording of which was played for jurors. In the background, someone other than Alice Davis said, “Steve Rater.”

Deputy J.T. Mitchell responded to the call. The dog was chained to a pickup when shot. Mitchell told jurors that Davis saw the pickup but could only see the driver’s black cowboy hat, but claimed he knew it was Rater, also of Shannon. The pickup, Davis told Mitchell, also had a burned-out tail light.

Mitchell located Rater at his daughter’s house and confronted him about shooting the dog. Rater denied it, but said he was glad it was dead. Mitchell located a shotgun in the daughter’s pickup, but noted it did not appear to have been recently fired.

The shotgun had been confiscated from Rater in February 2007 and was returned the morning of the shooting to Kristin Morrison. Mitchell found shotgun shells in Raters pickup, but none had been fired.

Just before 11 p.m. the same night, the sheriff’s office got a 911 call from Rater’s mother, Dorothy Walker, saying someone had shot at her house. It was during the phone call that Walker looked out of the house to see Rater dead on the front steps. Rater had two pistols, a .22 revolver and a .44 revolver. No shots had been fired from either, though one was in his hand and cocked when his body was discovered.

When sheriff’s deputies arrived, Davis was standing on the front porch of his home with a 22-caliber rifle trained on Bobby Morrison. Morrison, who had by then arrived at the Walker home, stood by his pickup, also a white flatbed, with his hands on the hood, said Mitchell.
The defense claimed the whole situation revolved around the “inhumane slaughter” of the Davis dog and the “complete failure” of the legal system in Clay County.

The defense also said Rater had a reputation for unlawful conduct and had a blood-alcohol level of 2.4, more than three times the legal limit. They said Rater had provoked the attack by pointing a gun, and the shooting was “justifiable homicide.”

The trial continues at 9 a.m. today and is expected to continue until next week. ... henrietta/

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