Co-defendant in Blymyer trial describes murder
By Shavonne Potts
When Jimmie Edgar Musselwhite refused to sell prescription pain pills to Joshua Lee Shaffer and Bradley Paul Blymyer on Nov. 10, 2006, Shaffer pointed a gun at the older man and ordered him to the floor.
He would just have to take the pills, Shaffer told Musselwhite.
But Musselwhite threatened to report the pair to authorities. So Shaffer, standing behind Musselwhite, picked up a Louisville Slugger the 62-year-old man kept in his home to protect himself and swung it, hitting Musselwhite in the back of the head.
Still conscious, Musselwhite again told Shaffer and Blymyer they would not get away with this crime. So Shaffer hit him again.
Musselwhite appeared to be unconscious then, but still breathing. Shaffer told Blymyer to gag and bind Musselwhite with duct tape, and Blymyer did.
Then Shaffer went into a back room in Musselwhite’s home to search for valuables to steal.
As he peered under a bed, he heard the bat strike Musselwhite’s head at least three more times. Coming back into the living room, Shaffer found Bradley Paul Blymyer standing over Musselwhite’s body. Blymyer was wiping his hands and Shaffer told Blymyer to wipe down a counter, the place where Shaffer had sat and a phone Shaffer had used.
That’s what Shaffer testified to in Rowan County Superior Court on Thursday. And though he didn’t see Blymyer hit Musselwhite with the bat, Shaffer said the sound he heard ó the sound of a baseball bat striking a human skull ó was distinct, one he’d never heard before that day.
“It was the same sound I heard when I hit him with the bat,” Shaffer said on the witness stand.
Shaffer didn’t see Blymyer stab Musselwhite, either. But he testified that the knife authorities say was used to stab Musselwhite nine times in the neck and cut his throat belonged to Blymyer, and that he’d seen him carry it into Musselwhite’s home.
Shaffer testified in 25-year-old Blymyer’s first-degree murder trial as part of an agreement with prosecutors. In return, the charge against him has been reduced to second-degree murder.
A friend discovered Musselwhite’s body on Nov. 16, 2006 after becoming concerned when no one had heard from him for days. His hands were bound with duct tape behind his back and his mouth was partially covered with duct tape.
Prosecutors have said Musselwhite sold pain killers prescribed to him for chronic pain. But he died because he refused to sell pills that day.
Shaffer, 25, testified that he started abusing prescription drugs when he was 17. His mother, Vickie Wright, gave him pills she took for chronic arthritis and pain from knee replacements, he said. He also had his own prescription for pain pills for nerve damage in his right wrist and problems with his teeth.
He became addicted, he said, and normally took Percocet or Lortab.
He told jurors Blymyer also took Percocet, Lortab and Vicodin.
The two, who had been friends since fifth grade, got the drugs from “random people,” Shaffer said.
The two committed break-ins together, usually buying pills with whatever they got for the stolen items, Shaffer said.
For one of the crimes, they obtained a key to the home of Shaffer’s stepfather and stole a safe later found buried in Blymyer’s backyard. During another break-in, they stole the pistol Shaffer carried with him to Musselwhite’s home the day of the murder.
Shaffer said he met Musselwhite through another person who’d been selling him pills. He then began buying pills from Musselwhite.
Rowan District Attorney Bill Kenerly asked Shaffer if he and Musselwhite had a dispute. Shaffer said Musselwhite tried to over-charge him for pills.
“I told him that was messed up,” but bought the pills anyway, Shaffer testified.
That happened not long before the murder. Blymyer and Shaffer came up with a plan to steal pills from Musselwhite on Halloween, but Shaffer said he chickened out. Shaffer and Blymyer, along with Melissa Freeze, who drove the men to the house, left empty-handed.
When they went back Nov. 10, he carried the handgun and Blymyer carried duct tape and the knife he’d taken on previous break-ins.
“The knife had brass knuckles on one end and a 6-inch blade on the other end,” Shaffer said.
Blymyer’s attorney, Ken Darty, asked Shaffer how his friend drove to Musselwhite’s home with a such a knife and duct tape in his pocket.
“I saw Brad with the knife in his hoodie pocket,” Shaffer said.
He added that just before they went into Musselwhite’s mobile home, he noticed Blymyer had on latex gloves. Authorities say Blymyer’s DNA was found on a torn latex glove stuck to a piece of duct tape on Musselwhite’s body. SBI Special Agent Karen Morrow, who examined the glove, testified to that again Thursday.
Darty, asked Shaffer if seeing his friend with a knife and duct tape caused him concern. Shaffer said it did not. He assumed Blymyer brought those items as a precaution, he said, just as he’d brought the pistol. Shaffer said the two men never talked about what weapons they’d take with them, if any.
“Did he tell you he had this knife?” Darty asked.
“It was understood,” Shaffer said. But, he said, he didn’t know Blymyer had used the knife. He learned Shaffer had been stabbed and his throat had been cut when authorities charged him in the murder.
The Statesville attorney asked why Shaffer needed to use a gun on a 62-year-old man who had health problems and bad knees.
Shaffer said it was for intimidation.
Darty asked Shaffer what kind of shoes he wore the night Musselwhite was killed. Shaffer said he did not know what kind they were, but they belonged to Blymyer. Shaffer testified he wore a size 10.
“Are you aware Mr. Blymyer wears a size 12?” Darty asked.
Shaffer said he wasn’t sure what size shoe his friend wore, but he was able to wear his shoes. At least two partial footprints were found outside Musselwhite’s home and a caste made of the impressions. One was a Reebok shoe, one a work boot, authorities said.
The shoes were not located at either Shaffer or Blymyer’s house.
“Isn’t it true Bradley Blymyer was not with you that night?” Darty asked.
“He was,” Shaffer said.
When they left the Verlen Drive home, he testified, Musselwhite was making “gurgling sounds.”
Shaffer said the two broke into the home of one of Blymyer’s neighbors the day after Musselwhite’s murder.
The trial resumes today at 9:30 a.m.