Thursday, December 17, 2009

Man guilty in 2008 stabbing

A jury recommended French David Kanode serve 22 years for his role in a woman's death.

PULASKI -- After listening to two days of often conflicting evidence in the case against French David Kanode, a Pulaski County jury found him guilty Wednesday of both the charges he faced in connection with the stabbing death of a Radford woman.

Kanode, 33, was found guilty in Pulaski County Circuit Court of solicitation to commit murder and conspiracy to commit murder in the Jan. 21, 2008, death of 42-year-old Dawn Lee Meredith Wright.

The jury recommended a total of 22 years in prison -- 15 on the solicitation conviction and seven for conspiracy.

As the guilty verdicts were read, Kanode rubbed his hand on his face and leaned forward to put both hands on the table in front of him. He then shook his head and looked toward his fiancee, mother, grandmother, sister and two aunts in the courtroom.

"It's all lies," Kanode's fiancee, Cathy Fisher, said after court recessed. "He had nothing to do with none of it."

Richard Forest Mabry, 42, of Dublin testified that he killed Wright because Kanode told him to do it.

He said he had become a prospective member of the Pagans motorcycle gang and had been threatened by Kanode. He testified that Kanode slipped a knife into his sweatshirt pocket before sending him off alone with Wright, whom he said he had never seen before.

Mabry pleaded guilty in December 2008 to first-degree murder and is serving 30 years in prison.

"The relationship between my brother and Dawn was like my relationship with him," Kanode's sister, Kristi Kanode, said by phone Wednesday afternoon. "He would never hurt her."

Kanode, a tattoo artist known by the nickname Dizzy, testified Tuesday that he and Wright were close friends.

In asking for a lengthy sentence for Kanode, Pulaski County Commonwealth's Attorney Mike Fleenor asked jurors if they thought Wright would be dead if it hadn't been for Kanode.

"Would Richard Mabry have done this by himself?" he asked. "Richard Mabry used a knife to kill Dawn Wright. But French Kanode used Richard Mabry to kill Dawn Wright."

He also told jurors that Kanode had two prior misdemeanor assault convictions from 1998 and 2003.

"French Kanode, quite frankly, is a very dangerous man," Fleenor said.

Kanode's attorney, Jonathon Venzie, told jurors it didn't make sense that Kanode would have wanted Wright dead. He told them to consider that their findings of guilt "involve a heavy reliance on a very unstable person."

Mabry told police several different versions of the events of the night Wright was killed. The version he told in court was different still, and he seemed reluctant to say that he had killed her, only saying that "things went downhill" after they got out of his van at the base of Bloomer's Mountain, where her body was found two days later.

The only testimony during sentencing Wednesday came from Kanode's mother, Louise Peoples.

She said her son is a sensitive man who began drawing when he was 3 years old and cares for several animals.

"He gets upset if anything happens to his animals or anyone he knows," she said.

After the hearing, she said Kanode "puts on a big front, but he's gentle as a lamb."

The jury of eight women and four men met for about an hour and a half before announcing that it had reached a decision in the case. It met for only about 40 minutes to agree upon a recommended sentence.

Circuit Court Judge Colin Gibb will formally sentence Kanode at a later hearing, which has not yet been scheduled. It is rare, though, for a judge to stray from a jury's recommendation.

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