MIFFLINTOWN - The first day of a jury trial for a man charged with attempted homicide ended with Juniata County District Attorney Cory Snook announcing he would call rebuttal witnesses this morning when the trial resumes.
Earlier on Wednesday, Snook rested the commonwealth's case against Thomas Joseph Leach, 51, of Mifflintown, who allegedly stabbed Samuel H. Ryder, 36, of Port Royal, on Feb. 14, 2009, in the parking lot of the Club House Bar in Fermanagh Township.
According to court documents, the two men had been out drinking together and were involved in a scuffle at the AMVETS in Thompsontown on the night in question. At some point later that same evening, Leach retrieved a knife from his vehicle, documents state. Police said Ryder made statements saying Leach had "shot him," but it was later discovered he had been stabbed with the knife.
Police said Ryder was flown to Hershey Medical Center, where he was treated for his wounds.
Leach has consistently maintained that the incident was an accident and Ryder essentially ran into the knife.
There was full day of testimony on Wednesday, including several Pennsylvania State Police officers involved in the investigation.
Trooper Stanley Sims Jr. testified that when he responded to the Club House Bar, he found Ryder "laying on the ground with huge amount of blood coming out of him."
Sims said Ryder kept saying, "Joe Leach shot me."
Several patrons who were in the bar that night also were called to testify, all of whom said Ryder entered the bar and collapsed on the floor bleeding.
On that night as well as throughout the day following the stabbing, several troopers secured the Club House Bar, while others obtained a search warrant for Leach's residence and car.
Trooper Rob Murphy and Cpl. Brian Haubrick testified they went to Leach's residence the morning after the stabbing.
"(Leach) said 'I threw the knife over there,'" Murphy said of the defendant motioning toward a shed on his property as he escorted him out of his house in handcuffs.
Haubrick testified he found the large knife behind the shed, and it appeared to him that the weapon had been deliberately placed there and not thrown as defendant contends.
After wrapping up testimony with law enforcement involved in the investigation, Snook called Ryder's wife, Renee Ryder, to testify.
Renee Ryder said her husband initially spent 14 days in the hospital, but then had to go back to the hospital several times because of complications that developed as a result of his injuries.
One of the doctors who worked on Ryder while he was in the Trauma Center Intensive Care Unit at Hershey, Dr. Dan A. Galvan, said Ryder had a "pretty deep wound" to the left abdominal area.
Galvan further testified that this type of wound was life-threatening and had damaged Ryder's intestines, requiring him to wear a colostomy bag for several months.
Later Wednesday afternoon, Samuel Ryder took the stand and confirmed he had been out drinking with Leach and other people that night. Ryder testified the scuffle at the AMVETS was not serious and was just him and the defendant fooling around.
Ryder said that at one point, he asked Leach to take him to the Club House Bar, where the defendant attempted to ditch him and run off.
"I got out, he starts to leave and I got angry," Ryder said, adding that he pounded his fists on the hood of the car.
Ryder testified that Leach stabbed him shortly thereafter, and he walked into the bar and collapsed. Ryder claims he does not remember anything after that, and the next thing he remembers is waking up in a hospital bed several days later, despite court records to the contrary that state he spoke with troopers while lying on the Club House Bar floor.
Ryder claimed he heard a "pop" and though he had been shot.
At one point during his testimony, Ryder stood and lifted his shirt, exposing several scars from the various surgeries he has had during the past year and a half.
Defense Attorney Shane Kope called several witnesses as well, most of whom were character witnesses called to back the theory that Ryder is someone who has a reputation for violence and that Leach was a non-violent person.
"(He is) one of the most level-headed people I know," Leach's friend, William Huffnagle, said.
The defense closed out its testimony for the day by calling Leach to testify.
Leach testified that the scuffle at the AMVETS was not just the two of them fooling around.
Leach testified that Ryder wanted to do some cocaine while at the AMVETS and he wanted to take the drug while sitting in Leach's car; however, Leach would not let him do that because there were two other people he was with who had gone out to his car to do the same thing and were attracting too much attention.
Leach testified Ryder said, "I want to do a line," then picked him up and slammed him down on the ground.
"Knocked the wind out of me," Leach said.
Leach testified that the two of them "laughed it off" and then later he took Ryder to the Club House Bar. Leach testified he had no intention of coming into the bar with Ryder, and when he put his car in drive and started to leave, Ryder pounded his fists on the hood of the car and on the windshield.
Leach said Ryder grabbed him and threw him down behind his car, causing several injuries to his arm and rib cage. Leach said he retrieved the knife from the car in an effort to defend himself if necessary or to scare Ryder away.
"I had no choice ... he was a raging bull," Leach said, adding that Ryder walked into the knife when he grabbed his shoulders.
"I didn't want to hurt (Ryder) at all ... I never thrusted the knife ... never tried to injure him," Leach said.
Pending further court action, Leach remains free on $50,000 bail and testimony will resume at 9 a.m. today.