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Murder case heads to county grand jury

Published 12:00am Sunday, February 10, 2013

The case of a family argument turned deadly will be heard by a Lawrence County Grand Jury.

Visiting Lawrence County Municipal Court Judge John Hall ruled Friday that there was enough evidence to send the case against Rodney Delawder, 33, of 2953 State Route 243, Ironton, to the grand jury.

Delawder is accused of killing his brother-in-law John A. McKnight, 48, at their home on Jan. 29. He is also charged with second-degree felonious assault against his other brother-in-law, Larry J. McKnight, 46, and second-degree improperly discharging a firearm into a habitation.

During the municipal court probable cause hearing, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Mack Anderson asked Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office Detective Aaron Bollinger to explain his knowledge of the case.

Bollinger testified that according to a coroner’s report, John McKnight died as a result of a gunshot wound from a 12-gauge shotgun that was found on the scene. A pellet from a double-ought buckshot shell went through the left side of McKnight’s chest, penetrating his lung and heart.

The shooting was allegedly the result of the three men fighting outside the home, where they all lived, Bollinger said, testifying to information received from several witness interviews.

According to Delawder’s wife, Bollinger testified, when she arrived at the home, she witnessed her husband and two brothers fighting in the yard. The woman also alleged Delawder threatened to harm her when she tried to intervene, so she fled.

When the woman later returned, Bollinger said, Delawder was gone and both John and Larry McKnight were lying in the kitchen floor.

John McKnight was pronounced dead at the scene. Larry McKnight was taken to St. Mary’s Medical Center-Ironton for injuries and treated for a broken jaw and a concussion. Bollinger said he saw what looked to be tread marks from shoes on the man’s face and head.

Bollinger said he observed about a 2-inch hole in the glass of the back door in the kitchen of the home.

According to John and Larry McKnight’s mother, who was home at the time of the incident, Bollinger said, the woman told authorities she heard the fighting outside and saw Delawder beating her sons. She also claimed to hear Delawder threaten to kill John.

The woman also said Delawder shot through the glass from the outside of the home as John was trying to hold the door shut, but that she didn’t see Delawder pull the trigger. At this point, Larry was lying on the kitchen floor unconscious.

The shotgun was later found in two pieces, Bollinger said. The forearm of the gun was found by the back steps and the rest found down the driveway in some bushes.

Bollinger said Delawder was later found at his mother and sister’s home off County Road 55 in Ironton.

During his initial interviews with Delawder, Bollinger said, “He stated things like ‘they deserved it. They needed their butts kicked.’”

Bollinger said the man later claimed he couldn’t remember everything that happened because he was so mad. Delawder also said a past incident between his wife and her brothers was the catalyst for the fight, the detective testified.

Delawder was represented by attorney Mike Davenport and is being held in the Lawrence County Jail on a $500,000 bond.

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