As the verdict of a murder trial was read aloud Monday afternoon, several members of Stanley McFalda Jr.’s family held hands, many with tissues squeezed in their palms.
When the 10 people or so heard the words “guilty of murder” in McFalda’s April 5, 2018, shooting death, some wiped away tears. McFalda’s father, Stanley McFalda Sr., looked down and he too, a few minutes later, was sobbing.
Outside of a courtroom where he had sat in the front row for seven days, he called the verdict a “complete relief” as Bradley Anderson, 34, was convicted of his son’s murder in the front yard of a Greenway Drive home in Elizabethtown.
He said he knew from “day 1” that his son was murdered and didn’t buy into Anderson’s defense claim that he had shot his son once in the head in an act of self defense.
“I know my son and I know what it was,” he said. “I didn’t want a plea deal. I wanted the max for this guy.”
About three hours after the verdict, the Hardin County jury also recommended a life sentence for Anderson, a single father of three children. The jury could have sentenced Anderson to anywhere from 20 to 50 years in prison as alternatives to the life sentence.
It took a Hardin County jury of nine men and three women about 70 minutes to find Anderson guilty of murder. His defense had asked the jury to acquit him of murder or find him guilty of first-degree manslaughter.
John Schmidt, co-counsel with Darren Wolff for Anderson, contended in closing arguments that Anderson felt threatened when McFalda, 26, returned to the home Anderson shared with Cris Ingerson, who was McFalda’s girlfriend of a few months.
He said Anderson had told McFalda not to come to 929 Greenway Drive on April 5. By returning, Anderson anticipated a physical confrontation with him over some things that reportedly had been said about his parenting skills.
“You have to be pretty afraid to leave your own house,” Schmidt told jurors.
Minutes after McFalda Jr. arrived in his truck, he approached the house where he was greeted on a walkway by Ingerson, the mother of Anderson’s three children. Ingerson testified McFalda pushed her aside and that’s when Anderson, standing about two feet away on a dark April night, shot him.
Schmidt said his client knew McFalda carried weapons in his truck, especially long rifles and that he wasn’t told by Ingerson to not have them in the vehicle if her children would be riding in it. No weapons were found on McFalda or in his truck, according to evidence presented in the case.
Schmidt told jurors Anderson was heading to his vehicle when McFalda showed up at the house. Anderson’s car keys were found on him.
Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Jim Lesousky said the outcome was a case of jealousy and envy.
“He (Anderson) was sickened that he was losing this woman,” he said. “... this man was eaten by jealousy and he was going to end it one way or another. He made up false scenarios in this self cloak of self defense. This was murder.”
During testimony, it was revealed about two hours before the shooting Anderson, who declined to testify at trial, had sought information on Kentucky’s self-defense law through internet searches.
“He already looked up the self-defense law two hours before the shooting,” Lesousky said. “How’s that for self defense! His interview with police didn’t go as planned and it all came apart for him.”
McFalda’s father said his son’s love of hunting and fishing came from frequent outings between the two. He said he often worked 60 hours a week and opportunities to spend time together growing up wasn’t as frequent as he would have liked.
He said his son had joined the U.S. Army, in part, because both of his grandfathers also served.
As the verdict was read by Hardin Circuit Judge Kelly Mark Easton, Anderson showed no outward emotion. Noticeably thinner from the time of his arrest 13 months ago, he looked straight ahead and often down in his seat.
As he was sentenced to life behind bars, Anderson sat between Wolff and Schmidt and looked straight ahead.
McFalda Jr. grew up in Payneville, a small community in Meade County, and graduated from Meade County High School.
“He was such a good boy,” McFalda Sr. said as tears filled his eyes. “Just a good boy.”
“His first priority was always family,” said McFalda’s wife, Heather Fuwell McFalda.
Even though they were divorcing, Heather McFalda he still was concerned about the well-being of her and her son, Caleb.
“He would do anything for anyone,” she said. “He loved his children so much, including my oldest son Caleb, who is his stepson ... and even after we separated (he) always made sure Caleb and I were OK.”
McFalda Sr. praised “all the hard work” of the Elizabethtown Police Department and the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office in the case.
“For these people to help us like this, our appreciation for all of them will never be fully realized,” he said.
Final sentencing will be June 25.