Suspect in shooting death

James Reed

Editor's Note: This article contains graphic descriptions of domestic violence. In order to protect the privacy of witnesses involved – one who herself is a victim of domestic violence – The Daily Independent has elected to keep her anonymity.

CATLETTSBURG On Aug. 13, 2019, Lawrence “Meech” McCoy was shot twice inside his home in the 3400 block of Central Avenue — he crawled out to the street, where he was found and taken to King's Daughter Medical Center.

McCoy succumbed to his wounds and his girlfriend's stepfather — 48-year-old James “J” Reed was taken into custody early the next morning on a murder charge. He has been held at the Boyd County Detention Center — after spending a week in Lawrence County, Ohio, awaiting extradition — since Aug. 20, 2019, on a $1 million bond.

Not much was written on the case —

a couple light rewrites of a Ashland Police press releases and an announcement of Reed's indictment on charges of murder, possession of a handgun by a convicted felon and first-degree persistent felony offender.

On Wednesday, jurors got to hear a good portion of a case with only three eyewitnesses — one dead, one on trial and one who to this day says she still loves them both, despite what they've done.

The facts of the case are largely agreed upon — in the lead-up to the shooting, the victim's girlfriend, M, reported her relationship had been “hot and cold” with McCoy, rife with violence. The day her son was born — roughly a month prior to the shooting — M said McCoy had sent her photographs via text of himself setting various parts of their apartment on fire.

McCoy, according to M, suffered from mental illness and drug abuse. At times, he could be sweet — at other times, he could be violent. Text messages read aloud in court by investigating officers revealed McCoy threatened to kill the mother of his child if she left him.

The day prior to the shooting, M said she and McCoy got into it over him cheating on her. Things cooled down, but the next morning McCoy assaulted her to the point she needed to wear makeup to go to work as a caretaker for an elderly man in Greenup County.

“First he was slapping me, then he started punching me and all I could say was 'please stop, please stop,'” M told the jury, visibly upset about retelling her account.

The two argued via text throughout the day, at which point McCoy made threats to her, testimony revealed. McCoy then told Reed he had “laid hands on her” and asked him to come over.

As public defender Brian Hewlett revealed on cross-examination, Reed had a way with McCoy. He was the one who would take McCoy fishing; he tried to mentor him. Never before that day in August 2019 did Reed ever get physical with the 30-year-old man.

Reed's wife told the jury McCoy looked up to her husband and herself as parental figures, calling Reed “pops” and her “momma” from time to time. Neither, according to the testimony, knew anything about what was happening behind closed doors.

So Reed had his wife drop him off at his stepdaughter's home — the two men drank as they awaited M to come home. According to the testimony, McCoy was on probation at the time and was to appear in court the next day — his urine was dirty with drugs, so he presumed he'd go to jail for a while.

When M arrived at the house, everything was calm at first, according to the testimony. The three of them ate pizza.

What happened next is where the details get murky.

Reed, by both M's statement and what the investigators had gathered, was on the front porch when an argument erupted between his stepdaughter and McCoy. During that argument, McCoy allegedly stuck an SKS — a Soviet-era assault rifle — in the face of M, according to the testimony.

It wasn't the first time there was gun-play in McCoy's home — under cross-examination, it was revealed at least 10 shots had been fired inside the home, leaving holes in the walls and ceilings. He'd shot a gun off inside the home over arguments, over her leaving. A gun in her face, M said, was a fairly regular occurrence.

“He'd put one in my face if he thought I wasn't telling the truth,” she said.

McCoy lowered his gun and sat down on the couch with M, according to testimony.

That's when Reed came through the door and the shots were fired, according to the testimony.

“It all happened so fast,” M said. “I'm not sure how it went down.”

What exactly happened is a point of contention — APD detectives said when Reed was questioned in the early morning hours of Aug. 14, 2019, the story changed. In one version, McCoy had given him his 9mm pistol. In another version, Reed had shot McCoy during the struggle for the gun — that's the story he later told his wife, according to her testimony.

M didn't recall any struggle prior to the shots being fired.

For M's part, she said she remembered tackling her stepfather and squeezing his genitals in order to get him to release the gun. During the scuffle, McCoy crawled out of the home, off the porch and into the street.

M took her baby over to a neighbor's and began searching for McCoy, believing he may have run off somewhere. In the middle of all this, Reed called his wife and had her pick him up at a nearby gas station.

“He was hysterical,” the wife told the jury. “He kept talking about his back, so I thought I needed to take him to the hospital. When we were about to go to St. Mary's in Ironton, he told me to go on home.”

It was at home where Reed told his wife his version of events — she told him he needed to turn himself, according to the testimony. However, in order to calm his nerves, she gave him a half a dose of her medication — Reed later fell asleep.

At 4 a.m. on Aug. 14, 2019, the wife told the jury she awoke to 12 police officers surrounding their home in Lawrence County, Ohio.

“I told them he wasn't going to run, he just fell asleep,” she said. “They got him and took him to Lawrence County (Jail).”

Back in Ashland, detectives had been combing over the scene — M had given officers her full account of what happened, according to the investigators' testimony. No plan was made to have McCoy killed or otherwise harmed between the daughter and father, testimony revealed. According to her testimony, M said Reed told her to tell the law the truth about what happened.

The gun that shot McCoy was his own, the investigators confirmed, based on the shell casings left at the scene. The bullets extracted at the scene were inconclusive, they noted.

Under police interrogation, Reed admitted to shooting McCoy, but it was in order to defend his family. Emotions were high during the interview — at some points, Det. McDavid said Reed was apologetic, before stating, 'f-it, I'd do it again.”

Throughout the interview, Reed maintained he had shot and killed McCoy for his family, for his daughter.

Due to scheduling conflicts with some witnesses in the case, jurors were excused Wednesday at 3 p.m. The trial will resume at 1:30 p.m. today.

Boyd County Circuit Court Judge John Vincent is presiding and Boyd County Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Christina Smith is representing the state.

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