Gore teen pleads guilty to 2nd degree murder, sentenced to 16 years

Bailey Powell

FRONT ROYAL — The Gore teen charged in the March stabbing death of his girlfriend pleaded guilty to second-degree murder on Tuesday.

Bailey Lincoln Powell, 18, was sentenced to serve 16 years imprisonment as part of the plea agreement entered on Tuesday evening, which was just below the midpoint of the sentencing guidelines, Circuit Judge Clifford L. Athey remarked. Powell was 17-years-old at the time of the offense, which was one of the factors that contributed to the agreed-upon sentence, attorneys noted.

Powell and Leah Marie Adams, 19, the victim in the case, were arguing on the night of March 25, Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Bryan Layton said during Tuesday’s hearing. Layton said Powell repeatedly asked the defendant to stop the car as they were traveling together in Front Royal. Layton said Powell told the police that Adams had put the car in park while he was driving,  which angered him.

Witnesses at the scene said that Adams exited the passenger side of the vehicle and walked around to the driver’s side, where she opened the door and tried to get inside, Layton said. The car began to travel on Kerfoot Avenue, where it had been stopped, and then jumped the curb and hit mailboxes before Adams ended up on the ground, Layton said. Adams got up, staggered to a nearby driveway, screaming multiple times for help before collapsing to the ground again.

Local law enforcement soon responded to the incident, which had been reported to them as an injured pedestrian, Layton said, adding that Adams’ injuries were inconsistent with a pedestrian being struck in a hit and run. Adams was transferred to Warren Memorial Hospital where she was pronounced dead. The cause of death was determined to be two stab wounds to the upper chest.

A lab analysis showed that a  knife recovered from the center console of the abandoned vehicle had blood on it that came from Adams.   Adams’ blood was also found on the vehicle’s gear shift assembly, the analysis stated.

Police received a call of a break-in attempt one block away while responding to the incident, Layton noted. Law enforcement found Powell at the scene of the attempted break-in with blood near his neck area from breaking glass trying to get into the house. At first, Powell told officers he had been sober, but he later disclosed that he had taken “acid” he obtained in Winchester. A blood analysis  indicated that Adams  had LSD in her blood at the time of the incident and LSD was also found in Powell’s blood.

Powell’s attorneys, William “Beau” Bassler and David Hensley noted on Tuesday that they believe that the drugs and the resulting levels of intoxication were the driving forces in the case. Bassler said that the toxicologist they planned to bring to testify for the mitigation of sentencing had the case gone to trial would have testified that LSD caused drastically uncharacteristic behavior. That evidence would have been solely for the court’s consideration, Bassler noted, as voluntary intoxication is not a legal defense for second-degree murder.

Layton explained that the victim’s family was in agreement with the plea agreement because of the certainty of conviction, something that would not have assured at a jury trial. Layton added that Powell’s decision to enter a guilty plea — rather than a plea of no contest or an Alford plea of guilty — means that Powell is accepting responsibility for the crime.

Robert Adams, the victim’s father, wrote a letter to explain how the case has impacted his family. Adams testified on Tuesday that there is a great deal that he misses about his daughter, and that she had many goals and dreams that will never be realized because of what Powell took from them.

“It’s just tough sitting here knowing that I’m never going to see my daughter again,” Robert Adams said. “Christmas is in one week, and she’s not going to be here.”

When given the opportunity to speak to the court, Powell prefaced his prepared statement by saying that everything he was going to say was not for the court’s sympathy but because it was the truth. He tearfully explained that Adams was the love of his life and the person he killed, and after reviewing video of his interviews with police after the offense, Powell said he looked like a “monster.”

“I was the person who took the drugs that made me that monster,” Powell said, adding that he wanted Adams’ family to know that he was very sorry.

Athey accepted the plea agreement, and sentenced Powell to serve 16 years of a 40-year prison sentence. Upon his release from prison, Powell must complete five years of supervised probation and 10 years of unsupervised probation.

Athey then extended sympathies to both families, noting that the parties involved had tragically made some bad choices. He added that Powell, who will serve at least 85 percent of his sentence, which is just over 13 years, will serve the suspended remainder of his sentence should he commit another crime.

After Friday’s hearing, Hensley said that he’s satisfied with the agreement given the totality of the circumstances in the case.

“I think it’s a tragedy all the way around,” Hensley said. “A young lady’s lost her life and a young man’s lost his freedom.”