Hurt egos, testosterone and "alcohol-fueled adrenaline bull-" were to blame for the Feb. 13, 2012 slaying of Thomas A. Schmitt, eyewitness Kirsten Radcliffe testified Wednesday during the homicide trial of William J. Kemp.
The fatal evening began at the Fifth Avenue Tavern, where Radcliffe and her boyfriend Michael Updegraff were drinking with Schmitt, a friend and housemate. After two beers and three shots of tequila, Radcliffe got into a fight with her boyfriend over another woman, she testified.
"I left the tavern and didn't know where I was going. I stopped on the corner. (Kemp) showed concern, it was cold and he let me upstairs," Radcliffe testified.
Radcliffe had never met Kemp before that night but got the impression he was "harmless." Upstairs, Kemp introduced her to his girlfriend. After phoning Updegraff and trying unsuccessfully to get a ride home, Radcliffe accepted a ride from Kemp.
"I thought he was going to bring his girlfriend also. I think the outcome would've been different if he had done so," Radcliffe testified.
"Why?" defense counsel William J. Miele asked.
"Jealousy-wise," Radcliffe replied.
Once home, Radcliffe invited Kemp inside. When Updegraff saw a strange man in his living room, he became irate, according to testimony.
"Did Mr. Updegraff know how you were getting home?" Miele asked.
"Yes, I prepared him. He did know," Radcliffe testified.
But Updegraff testified that "it was never discussed" that Kemp was giving Radcliffe a ride home.
"I think he completely didn't listen to anything I said on the phone," Radcliffe said of Updegraff.
When Updegraff asked Kemp to leave the property, he replied, "I'm not going anywhere unless she's OK," according to testimony.
"I said, '(Updegraff) gets like this, you better just go,' " Radcliffe testified.
"Did you see any punches thrown?" District Attorney Eric R. Linhardt asked.
"Absolutely not," Radcliffe replied.
Defense counsel repeatedly asked witnesses whether or not Kemp was struck inside the house but declined to comment about the legal significance of such contact.
Updegraff then grabbed Kemp by the collar and forced him out the door, according to testimony. Updegraff and Schmitt followed Kemp onto the porch.
Although Updegraff denied any physical contact between him and Kemp on the porch at a March 15, 2012, preliminary hearing, he admitted Wednesday that he landed "a couple of friendly hits."
Updegraff and Schmitt then escorted Kemp partway down the driveway. Updegraff stopped but Schmitt continued to follow Kemp while he walked at a fast pace towards his vehicle, according to Updegraff's testimony.
"(Schmitt) and (Updegraff) were best friends so if (Updegraff) was having a problem with someone, so was (Schmitt)," Radcliffe explained.
In a March 12, 2012, interview with Agent Eric Delker, Updegraff described Schmitt as "the type that when a fight is over or a person is walking away, he'll verbally keep going," according to defense counsel William J. Miele.
Kemp retrieved his .45-caliber handgun from his vehicle and began firing down the driveway toward Updegraff and Schmitt, according to testimony. None of the witnesses saw Schmitt brandish a weapon or display behavior that would lead them to believe Kemp fired the fatal shots in self-defense, according to testimony.
Radcliffe was walking upstairs when she heard the shots ring out. She peered from a bedroom window and saw Kemp pointing the gun at Updegraff, who attempted to disarm him. A shot was fired into the ground during the scuffle. She ran downstairs where Updegraff and Kemp were fighting for control of the weapon. Radcliffe joined in the struggle.
"I grabbed Kemp by his head and said, 'Drop it, you mother f-er.' I used my fists and was covered in his blood after. I had heavy Harley Davidson clogs on and I kicked him in the face," Radcliffe testified.
The whole time, Kemp never let go of the weapon.
"If I could've gotten the gun, it would have been a lot worse," Updegraff said.
"I think (Kemp) would've come through and killed me, too, and left no witnesses," Radcliffe testified.
When asked why Kemp would shoot Schmitt, Updegraff replied that "the only reason I can come up with is Kemp had a gun and a permit to carry. He must've used it before to scare people."
But Radcliffe thought hurt pride was more to blame.
"I think (Updegraff and Schmitt) belittled (Kemp) and that's what angered him so much ... he wasn't in fear for his life; his ego was hurt," Radcliffe testified.
Radcliffe, who admitted she invited Kemp inside hoping he could get her cocaine, has a 2008 conviction for obtaining prescription drugs by fraud and forgery, according to Linhardt.
"You're entitled to hear limited evidence of a person's prior convictions only to determine whether the witness is credible when they're testifying," Judge Marc F. Lovecchio explained to the jury.
The details of the evening of the homicide remain convoluted, perhaps because "everything happened extremely fast," according to Radcliffe.
"(Kemp) really seemed like a good samaritan," Radcliffe said in an interview with state police Trooper Jeffrey Vilello.
"He had plenty of opportunity to leave my property. I can't explain why he wouldn't leave over something so little," Updegraff testified.
The trial continues today.