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Grand jury gets murder charge in New Year's killing

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Bradley Scott Gregory

Man accused of fatally shooting another at party

By Alex Bridges -- abridges@nvdaily.com

WINCHESTER -- A Frederick County man's murder charge related to a New Year's Day shooting death goes to a grand jury next month.

Bradley Scott Gregory, 27, of Retreat Lane, Winchester, appeared in Frederick County General District Court for a preliminary hearing to determine if probable cause exists to certify the defendant's charges to the grand jury. Gregory stands charged with first-degree murder and a related gun offense. He remains free on a $100,000 secured bond.

Judge David S. Whitacre said he found probable cause to certify the charges to the grand jury set to meet April 5.

Authorities accuse Gregory of shooting and killing Michael Scott Shirley, 27, of Berkeley Springs, W.Va., in the early morning hours of Jan. 1 at 1373 S. Timber Ridge Road.

Gregory and Shirley argued before the defendant retrieved a gun from his pickup truck, loaded it, then fired a single shot at the alleged victim, according to law enforcement officials and court documents. Shirley died from a gunshot wound to the chest, an autopsy showed.

While the defense argued Gregory likely felt threatened and shot Shirley in the heat of passion, the prosecutor said the shooting happened only after the defendant retrieved his gun and loaded it.

Lance McCarty, the homeowner who held the party, testified that Shirley, his cousin, and Gregory started arguing. The argument lasted about three minutes and then Gregory extended his hand to Shirley and they shook, McCarty recalled. The argument occurred while Shirley stood on the porch with Gregory on a step below, McCarty said.

However, the witness told the court Gregory made a threat about Shirley shortly after the argument.

"He said, 'he better not mess with me. I have a gun,'" McCarty testified.

The witness said Gregory showed the firearm to him and others at the party earlier that night then put it back into his white Ford pickup.

At some point after the argument, McCarty testified he took Shirley over to the man's blue Dodge Durango parked next to the Ford pickup. Shirley then walked around the front of his Dodge and toward the driver's side of the pickup where Gregory sat, McCarty said. The witness testified that he followed Shirley as they walked quickly, then heard a gunshot but never saw Gregory fire a weapon. Shirley fell back against the front side of the Dodge and then fell to the ground, McCarty said.

Gregory then handed the unloaded firearm to McCarty which he took inside the home, the witness said.

On cross examination by Gregory's attorney, public defender Timothy Coyne, McCarty said he'd invited both Gregory and Shirley to the party. He's known Gregory for about 10 years, he said. McCarty testified several people were drinking moonshine and/or beer including himself and Shirley.

"He said 'take this, I effed up,'" McCarty recalled hearing Gregory say.

Commonwealth's Attorney Glenn Williamson argued that Gregory shot an unarmed man and the fact the defendant went back to his truck for the gun used in the shooting showed the man did so with premeditation.

Gregory's court-appointed attorney, Timothy Coyne, argues his client did not fire on Shirley with malice or premeditation. Rather, Coyne indicated that Gregory may have shot and killed Shirley in the heat of passion after the arguments between the two men.

The judge denied Coyne's motion to strike the charges in reference to first- or second-degree murder. Coyne offered that the court should, at most, certify to the grand jury a charge of voluntary manslaughter -- the killing of another person without malice or premeditation.

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