Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

December 11, 2013

Testimony begins in Carter trial

Victim's girlfriend gives account of events

Leeann Akers

GRAYSON — Testimony began Wednesday in the trial of Clifford “Boomer” Cathey,  a Grayson man accused of manslaughter in the New Year’s Day 2012 beating death of another man.

Madeline Couvertier, the girlfriend of the victim, Heath Toney, was the first witness to take the stand in Carter Circuit Court. She testified she had been at a party at her home with Toney on New Year’s Eve, and, after ringing in the new year, they had gone with friends to pick up Cathey and Brian Rice.

Couvertier told jurors Cathey and Toney had immediate tension because Cathey  was “disrespectful and flirtatious” toward her. She also said Rice had tried to diffuse the situation between Cathey and Toney, and he had accompanied the couple and another woman, Margaret Nelson, on a walk after a confrontation at the party.

During the walk, Couvetier said she and Toney began arguing, she told the jury, at which point they were approached by Cathey. According to Couvertier, Rice “sucker-punched” Toney, and then Cathey kicked him in the head after he fell to the ground.

“Heath looked at Brian and said, ‘Really, dude?’” Couvertier said, breaking into tears. “Those were the last words he ever spoke. When Mr. Cathey kicked him in the head, Heath made the most god-­awful sound I have ever heard in my life and he never woke up.”

Couvertier said Toney was kicked a second time, but couldn’t say for sure whether Cathey or Rice did so.

“I put my body over his to try and keep them from hurting him more,” she said.  “He was convulsing and making a horrible noise. After the second kick I looked up and they were both running away.”

Under cross-examination by defense attorney Brian Hewlett, it was revealed although Couvertier claimed during testimony and during her initial interview with police she didn’t know who had dealt the second kick, she had told the Commonwealth’s Attorney Brandon Ison she believed it was Rice.

Rice, 39, pleaded guilty to a lesser charge in February and agreed to tesdtify against Cathey as part of his plea deal.

Grayson Police Sgt. Tony Cantrell testified that while he was on the scene of the incident, a dispatcher told him Cathey had called 911 and asked to speak with an officer. Cantrell said he took a statement from Cathey after he cleared the scene.

Cathey said in his statement he and Rice had encountered a couple fighting on the street, and, when they approached them, the male half of the couple pulled a knife. Cathey stated Rice hit the man and the two of them ran away.

Two EMS workers who responded to the 911 call also testified. Both said Toney was unresponsive and vomiting when they arrived on the scene, and his behavior indicated he had suffered a head injury.

Carter County E911 director Tommy Thompson and Mindi Roberts, the dispatcher on duty the night of the incident, confirmed Cathey had called 911 twice, but his calls were not recorded because of an issue with the 911 system, which did not record cellphone calls at the time.

Roberts confirmed she did not document in the record Cantrell went to interview Cathey.

Testimony is scheduled to resume at 9:30 a.m. today.