Witnesses discuss fatal incident

McCONNELSVILLE-The prosecution rested its case Wednesday in the Morgan County murder trial of a Malta man accused of stabbing and killing the friend of a rival.

Testifying Wednesday were the four people present at Danny Jones’ home on Nov. 2 when 51-year-old Thomas Matthew “Matt” Pace reportedly arrived to confront Jones over personal issues, but allegedly fought with, stabbed and killed Jones’ friend, 33-year-old Dustin Drone instead.

Kathy Jones, 54, testified Wednesday that she and Danny, 56, are now separated. Her husband was a frequent drinker and erroneously believed she and Pace were having an affair, she said.

The day’s tension built as Kathy, along with daughter Dorothy, and Dorothy’s friend Mackenzie Fisher, attended a birthday party at Pace’s nearby home. By the time Kathy left around 9 p.m., Danny had called the party at least three times and Pace had told the three women he was going to follow them to their home and confront Danny.

“My mom told (Matt’s wife) to make sure Matt don’t come down cause he’d been drinking,” testified Dorothy, who was a seventh-grader at the time.

At the home, Kathy, Dorothy and Fisher all saw Drone on the porch and Danny Jones in the garage loading a shotgun, according to testimony.

“Dustin was standing there going like this,” recalled Kathy as she made a mock punching gesture, balling one fist up and using it to hit the palm of his other hand.

Despite her admonishment not to come, Pace arrived at the home a few minutes later, Kathy testified.

Kathy, Dorothy and Fisher all testified that Danny Jones stayed on the porch during the confrontation.

Fisher could see him on the porch through a window she and Dorothy were sharing, she said.

“I could see Danny with the gun, pointing the gun at (Pace’s) truck,” said Fisher, 14.

He appeared to fire shots into the air above the truck, she said.

No one, according to testimony, could see the fight that was allegedly taking place at the end of the Jones’ driveway where Pace had pulled in.

Shortly after Pace’s appearance, he left again, and Danny came inside, said Fisher.

“There was blood on his hands, and he was saying Dustin got stabbed by Matt,” recalled Fisher.

The Jones family and Fisher all went to help Drone, who was in bad condition.

“My dad was putting pressure…something on his chest,” recalled Dorothy, who sobbed briefly during a short bit of her testimony.

Also testifying Wednesday was the sergeant who arrested Pace and the forensic pathologist who performed Drone’s autopsy.

Pace did not deny fighting with Drone, said Sgt. James Fisher, of the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office. But Pace did tell the officer immediately after his arrest that night that he had tried to stave off the fight when Drone approached him.

“Dustin Drone came out from around a pine tree and (Matt) put out his hands and said ‘I don’t have a problem with you,'” said the officer recalling Pace’s version of events.

Pace had some abrasions on his knees and face and complained of his teeth being loose, said Sgt. Fisher.

The prosecution also presented photos of Drone’s autopsy, showing four stab wounds, including a fatal one that punctured his stomach, lung, diaphragm and heart, according to Dr. Charles Lee, a forensic pathologist and deputy coroner in Licking County.

“The cause of death was internal hemorrhaging….caused by a stab wound including the heart area,” said Lee.

Lee estimated the knife that caused the stab wounds was between five-and-a-half and six inches long. Drone had alcohol, marijuana and nicotine in his system at the time of death, he testified.

The case recommences today with an opening statement and possible witnesses from Pace’s defense attorney, J. Tullis Rogers. The jury will likely be given the case for deliberation today as well, Morgan County Common Pleas Court Judge Dan Favreau predicted Wednesday.