On August 30, 2005, 38-year-old Bernard A. Trickey Jr., a reputed drug dealer, was beaten to death in his home in Ogdensburg, New York.
The following day, acting on a tip from John Shannon, an acquaintance of Trickey’s, police went to the home of a neighbor, 39-year-old Wayne Oxley Jr. and after a consensual search, found a baseball bat in Oxley’s basement. Police claimed that it was the murder weapon and Oxley was charged with murder.
In 2006, Oxley went on trial before a jury in St. Lawrence County Court. Testimony from prosecution witnesses established that the victim’s hair and blood were on the bat, as was Oxley’s DNA.
A neighbor testified that she saw Oxley walking toward Trickey’s home that night. Other witnesses testified that Oxley was suffering from personal problems, was addicted to crack cocaine and was angry with Trickey for allegedly cheating him on drug transactions.
At a preliminary hearing before the trial, Shannon testified that on the night Trickey was killed, he saw Oxley “with that big long stick in his hand walking toward Bernie’s.”
Shannon, who was later unmasked as a police informant, was killed in a house fire two weeks later, so his preliminary hearing testimony was read to the jury at Oxley’s trial.
A prison inmate testified that Oxley admitted the murder while both were incarcerated and Oxley was awaiting trial.
Oxley testified that on the night Trickey was murdered, he was taking drugs and drinking alcohol with Shannon and another man. Oxley said Shannon kept asking for the bat and left the house and returned during the night.
Outside of the jury’s presence, Oxley’s attorney sought to introduce the testimony of a witness who said that she saw a man she knew as Chase threaten to kill Trickey two days before he was murdered and that she saw him at Trickey’s home, threatening Trickey only a few hours before the murder occurred.
Further, the defense said that six months after the murder, the witness heard Chase say admit that he killed Trickey, following through on his threat to beat “(Trickey’s) brains in with a bat.” In addition, the defense proposed to call a witness who was incarcerated with Chase who said that Chase had told him that he—not Oxley—killed Trickey.
According to the defense, another witness, a woman who lived with Chase around the time of the crime, was prepared to testify that a few nights before the murder, she left Chase and went to Trickey’s home. Chase came there with a baseball bat and when Trickey refused to let him in, Chase told him he would get hurt for getting involved in Chase’s relationship with the woman.
Finally, Oxley’s attorney said a cab driver would testify that he dropped off a man fitting Chase’s description at Trickey’s house and while still at the curb, heard the man yelling at Trickey to pay him the money he was owed or he would “get beat.”
The trial judge allowed Chase to testify outside the jury’s presence and he denied any involvement in the murder.
The judge then barred the evidence pointing to Chase as the killer.
On December 18, 2006, the jury found Oxley of second degree murder. He was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.
On July 30, 2009, the New York Supreme Court overturned the conviction, ruling that the judge had erred in excluding the evidence that Chase was the killer.
In October 2010, Oxley went on trial a second time.
At this trial, a new witness, Michelle Disotell, testified that she met Robert “Chase” Webb, Shannon and another man, Dana Chubb, in the months before Trickey was killed. She said she drove Webb to various cities, including New York City, Watertown and Syracuse to buy crack cocaine.
Disotell was barred from testifying that she heard Webb say that Trickey was ripping him off and that he was going to kill him because she could not provide a date for the conversation.
Two months later, on December 15, 2010, after seven days of deliberation, the jury reported it was deadlocked with eight jurors voting to convict and four voting to acquit.
The judge declared a mistrial.
In January 2012, Oxley went on trial for the third time and for the third time took the witness stand to deny he was the killer. He said he was home taking pills and drinking wine and passed out. He said he knew nothing about what happened until he saw police cars at Trickey’s home the following morning.
He said Shannon was the killer.
The defense also presented the evidence pointing to Robert “Chase” Webb, who was then called by the prosecution. Webb denied involvement in the murder, saying he was in New York City with his grandmother on the night of the crime.
On February 23, 2012, after two hours of deliberation, the jury acquitted Oxley.
In May 2012, Oxley filed a notice of claim with the city of Ogdensburg and the police department seeking $23 million in damages and a separate claim with the State of New York seeking $13 million in damages. The lawsuit against the city and police department was dismissed in November 2013.
– Maurice Possley