Commonwealth v. Richard Forest Mabry, and
Commonwealth v. French David Kanode (AKA “Frenchie” or “Dizzy”)
Pulaski County Circuit Court
Case Numbers CR08-587 (Mabry) and
CR09-137 and CR09-138 (Kanode)
Mabry case presented by K. Mike Fleenor, Jr
Kanode Jury Tried by K. Mike Fleenor, Jr. and Jason Wolfrey
Mabry – First Degree Murder, Serving 30 years
Kanode- Conspiracy and Solicitation to Commit Murder, Serving 22 years
In January of 2008, the body of Dawn Wright was found in the woods along a mountain road in the Back Creek section of Pulaski County. Deputies and Investigators with the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office collected evidence on the frigid evening in a snow covered crime scene. Sheriff Jim Davis and Commonwealth’s Attorney Mike Fleenor were present at the scene well into the night. Little did they know that they were about to handle one of the strangest murder cases in recent Pulaski County history.
Ultimately investigators were led to Richard Forest Mabry. Mabry was a part time cab driver in the Town of Pulaski with little to no criminal record. After a number of interviews, Mabry confessed to killing Dawn Wright by stabbing her numerous times and leaving her on the mountainside to die. There was no evidence however, that Mabry knew Dawn Wright or that he had any reason to killer. After further discussions with Mabry, he described what can only be considered an incredible story.
Mabry claimed that he killed Wright as an initiation into the Pagan’s Outlaw Motorcycle Club (gang). According to Mabry, a requirement to join the Pagans was that he kill another person. He said that he was told this process was called “blood in – blood out.” According to Mabry, the man that was a member of the Pagans and who recruited him was French David Kanode, AKA “Frenchie” or “Dizzy.” Mabry ultimately pled guilty to first degree murder and was sentenced to 30 years in the state penitentiary.
Mabry plea of guilty http://www.southwesttimes.com/2008/12/archive-2789/
Although it was clear that Mabry had actually performed the killing, many in law enforcement and the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office thought that Kanode bore some responsibility for Mabry’s actions. After considerable research, Prosecutor Fleenor presented indictments to the Grand Jury against Kanode for Solicitation to Commit Murder and Conspiracy to Commit Murder. The Grand Jury returned true bills and a jury trial was set.
French Kanode was a tattoo “artist” who had been a petty criminal most of his life. Whether or not he was actually a member of the Pagans is still a mystery, but the evidence was clear that he held himself out to be a recruiter for the gang.
The key witness for the Commonwealth against Kanode was Richard Mabry. He testified that he was recruited by Kanode to join the Pagans and that as part of his initiation he had to kill someone. Mabry testified that Kanode picked Dawn Wright “because she was someone that nobody would miss.” The two then drove to Radford and lured Dawn from her home with the promise of drugs. Mabry testified that the three drove back into Pulaski County through the rural sections near Back Creek. At the direction of Kanode, Mabry dropped him off at a friends house but gave him a knife which Mabry hid in his jacket. Thereafter Mabry and Wright drove into the mountains under the guise of “getting high.” After stopping his vehicle in an isolated location, he removed the knife and began stabbing Wright in the chest. She was able to exit the vehicle and run a short distance before Mabry caught up to her and finished killing her. He then drug her body through the snow and about 50 feet into the woods. After killing Wright, Mabry went back to pick up Kanode only to find that he had gone home. Mabry then went to Kanode’s residence and delivered to him the bloody knife to prove that he had completed his initiation.
Kanode testified at his trial that he was not a member of the Pagans, that he never claimed to be and that he didn’t know anything about them. On cross examination, Fleenor questioned Kanode about his own tattoos and tattoos that he had put on Mabry and others. Examples included GFPD (“God Forgives Pagans Don’t) and other Pagan terms and sayings.
It was also pointed out that Mabry didn’t know Wright and the only connection between the two was French Kanode. Ultimately the jury was convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that Kanode had solicited and conspired with Mabry in the killing of Dawn Wright. They sentenced him to 22 years in prison.
Kanode Trial article 1 http://www.southwesttimes.com/2009/12/archive-4247/
Kanode Trial article 2 http://www.southwesttimes.com/2009/12/archive-4252/
Kanode Trial article 3 http://www.southwesttimes.com/2009/12/archive-4255/
During the closing arguments of the Kanode jury trial a heated exchange between the attorneys occurred . Kanode’s attorney Jonathan Venzie attacked Richard Mabry, the Commonwealth’s key witness by calling him a “monster,” a person with a “diseased mind” and other disparaging names. In response, Commonwealth’s Attorney Mike Fleenor made the statement “There‘s an old saying that sometimes when you put the Devil on trial, you’ve got to go to Hell to get your witnesses.” Venzie immediately objected claiming prosecutorial misconduct and requested that the Court declare a mistrial. The Court denied the request and let the case go to the jury. Kanode was convicted and the jury sentenced him to 22 years.
Months later, after Kanode’s conviction Fleenor’s comment was one of the issues raised on appeal. The Court of Appeals and Virginia Supreme Court ultimately held that his argument was permissible and there was no error in the trial.
Kanode Appeal 1 http://www.southwesttimes.com/2011/03/archive-5703/
Kanode Appeal 2 http://www.southwesttimes.com/2011/04/archive-5771/