Murder Trial Continues
Attorney argues self-defense
by Wes Mayer
The trial of Milo Rachel, the Vietnam War veteran accused of fatally stabbing another man in April 2013, resumed Wednesday and is expected to continue until Friday.
Rachel, 64, was indicted on charges of malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault, possession of a knife during the commission of a crime and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. On April 1, 2013, Rachel was arrested for the slaying of Charles Skeen, 57, who died from an eight-inch stab wound that severed his abdominal aorta. Skeen was found dead lying on the front porch of Rachel’s home on Fairmount Drive.
Rachel, however, was not at home when authorities arrived to treat Skeen. Rachel arrived around 30 minutes later and was taken to the Newnan Police Department, where he was later charged with the death of Skeen.
Essentially, the prosecution, led by Coweta County Assistant District Attorney Robert Mooradian, is accusing Rachel of knowingly slaying Skeen, asserting Rachel stabbed Skeen during an argument because Skeen would not leave Rachel’s home. The defense, led by Public Defender Charles Cauble, is maintaining that Rachel only killed Skeen in self-defense and Skeen was actually the aggressor and attacked Rachel.
The trial continued Wednesday with Cauble cross-examining Deputy Chief Rodney Riggs with the Newnan Police Department. After the stabbing, Rachel was interviewed by Riggs and Sgt. Greg Vansant at the police department. On Tuesday, the recording of this interview was played for the jury.
In the interview, Rachel answered questions about the events of the day – talking about getting his disability check for the month, having an altercation with Skeen at his home and relating what Rachel did after this fight. A few times, Rachel changed his story about the altercation and where he went afterward.
This is the altercation during which Rachel is accused of fatally stabbing Skeen.
Cauble asked Riggs why he did not tell Rachel about Skeen’s death until the end of the interview. During the interview, Riggs told Rachel the police were investigating a crime scene at his house and later Riggs called it an assault, but Riggs did not tell Rachel that Skeen was dead until later.
Cauble also asked Riggs about how Rachel described the altercation, noting a few things Rachel said, including how he had to slide out from underneath Skeen because he was being overwhelmed. According to Cauble, this indicated Skeen was on top of Rachel during the fight, attacking Rachel.
After this, Mooradian called Dr. Jacqueline Martin, chief deputy medical examiner with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and an expert in the field of forensic pathology. Martin performed the autopsy on Skeen and determined he died from an eight-inch stab wound to his back left side. The stabbing shattered Skeen’s 12th rib and cut through his abdominal aorta, which led to him bleeding to death.
Martin also analyzed two other wounds on Skeen – a one-inch stab wound near the center of his back and a cut on his thigh. Photos of the exterior wounds, and some photos taken by Martin during the autopsy, were also shown to the jury.
Mooradian also brought in a plastic skeleton for Martin to demonstrate where the knife entered Skeen, and she showed where Skeen was stabbed using the eight-inch knife authorities believe Rachel used.
After this, Cauble asked Martin if Skeen’s wounds were consistent with a situation where Skeen was lying on top of someone – Rachel – and where Rachel, lying on his back, used the knife to defend himself. Martin said the wounds could be consistent.
Mooradian then called Rodney Tolbert, who was at Rachel’s home earlier in the day before the fatal altercation occurred. According to Tolbert, while he was at Rachel’s home to repair the kitchen floor, Skeen came to the home, and there was a verbal argument over a cigarette lighter. This escalated to Skeen knocking Rachel’s food onto the floor, hitting Rachel in the face and jumping on him. Tolbert said he ran to get Rachel’s sister next door for help, but by the time they returned, Rachel and Skeen were no longer fighting, and the two were talking.
Mooradian called a few more witnesses to learn more about the day, including where Rachel went after the fatal altercation. Ronny Moe, who drove Rachel around after the fight, was called as a witness, and he said the two drove to Rush Foods and to a shot house, a residential home where illegal alcohol is served. This was different than what Rachel said in his interview with Riggs and Vansant.
He said he went to Wal-mart to cash his disability check.
For the witnesses who knew Skeen personally, Cauble cross-examined them and asked if they could describe Skeen. All the witnesses claimed Skeen was either a bully, aggressive or a fighter.
Mooradian called his last witness, Vansant, at the end of the day on Wednesday. Vansant interviewed Rachel a second time about 11 days after the initial interview and asked more detailed questions about the altercation between Rachel and Skeen to clarify any areas where Rachel may have lied. The entirety of this interview was played for the jury on Wednesday.
The trial will continue today with Cauble cross-examining Vansant.