Local jury finds UC man guilty on homicide charge
Posted: Monday, August 30, 2010 9:03 pm
By: Chris Menees, Staff Reporter
By CHRIS MENEES
An Oct. 1 sentencing has been set for a Union City man found guilty Friday afternoon of criminally negligent homicide and aggravated assault in the October 2009 death of a South Fulton man.
An eight-man, four-woman jury returned the verdict against Rolie “Lee” Edmaiston Jr., 35, at 1:45 p.m., ending a two-day trial in Obion County Circuit Court.
Edmaiston had originally been indicted on charges of second-degree murder and aggravated assault in the death of 45-year-old David Cranford of South Fulton, who died Oct. 9, 2009, as a result of severe head injuries sustained in an Oct. 5 incident at Pop A Top Bar on East Cheatham Street in Union City.
Two other men charged in the incident — brothers Jeff “Tyler” Woodruff, 27, and Sean Brandon Woodruff, 32, both of South Fulton — pleaded guilty July 30 in Obion County Circuit Court to a felony charge of aggravated assault under a plea agreement that included five-year sentences in the Tennessee Department of Correction.
Edmaiston and the Woodruffs were initially charged with aggravated assault after the incident but an upgraded charge of second-degree murder was added against each of them following Cranford’s death. According to Union City police reports and court proceedings, Cranford sustained severe head injuries in the bar incident, which allegedly began as an exchange of words that escalated into a fight.
After closing arguments late Friday morning, the jury began deliberation at 11 a.m. They returned with a verdict two hours and 45 minutes later, a time period which reportedly included a break of about 45 minutes for lunch.
The jury foreman repor-ted to the court that the jury had found Edmaiston guilty of the lesser offense of criminally negligent homicide in the first count of the indictment and guilty of aggravated assault as charged in the second count of the indictment. Several members of both the Cranford and Edmaiston families wept softly as the verdict was read.
Judge Lee Moore of Dyer County scheduled sentencing for Oct. 1 at 9 a.m. in Circuit Court, contingent upon whether there is any conflict with Circuit Judge Bill Acree’s courtroom schedule. Moore presided over the case in place of Acree, who recused himself due to knowing family members of those involved.
Edmaiston’s bond was revoked.
Afterward, District Attorney General Tommy Thomas told The Messenger he was not pleased with the verdict and felt the facts of the case merited a conviction for second-degree murder. He said the Cranford family was also disappointed but would have to accept the jury’s verdict.
“I felt the facts merited the second-degree murder conviction, but obviously the jury didn’t see it that way,” he said.
Edmaiston’s attorney, Jeff Smith of Trenton, said he was very pleased with the verdict. He said a second-degree murder conviction would have carried a penalty of up to 25 years to be served at 100 percent, while his client’s conviction on the lesser offense carries a much lesser penalty with a possibility of parole.
“It was the proper verdict,” Smith said.
Edmaiston did not take the stand in his own defense during the two-day trial.
Staff Reporter Chris Menees may be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published in The Messenger 8.30.10