- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 13, 2005

BOWLING GREEN, Va. — The trial of a cattleman accused of killing his neighbor in a long-running dispute continued yesterday with a prosecutor saying the defendant shot the neighbor several times as he lay on the ground.

However, the attorney for the defendant, John Ames, said his client feared for his life when the neighbor, Perry Brooks, came at him with a stick.

Defense attorney Craig Cooley said his client acted in self-defense on the morning of April 19, 2004, when Mr. Brooks entered Mr. Ames’ property — the final encounter between the men who had feuded for more than 15 years.

Mr. Brooks attacked Mr. Ames with a 3-foot-long wooden stick, which Mr. Brooks was using to recover a wayward bull, Mr. Cooley said.

“The look of rage made [Mr. Ames] absolutely certain Mr. Brooks intended to kill him,” Mr. Cooley said in his opening statement in the first-degree murder trial.

But the prosecutor said an enraged and armed Mr. Ames sped to the scene in his pickup truck and confronted Mr. Brooks as he led away his bull.

“He got out with his gun drawn and pointed it at Perry Brooks and said this animal is not to leave the farm,” Commonwealth’s Attorney Harvey Latney said in his opening to jurors.

Mr. Latney said Mr. Brooks raised the stick over his right shoulder and was shot once in the face, knocking him down. Mr. Ames then fired additional rounds into Mr. Brooks.

“All of those shots were fired as Perry Brooks lay helplessly on the ground,” Mr. Latney said.

Mr. Ames and Mr. Brooks, who was 74, had differences that date to the 1980s after Mr. Ames bought the 675-acre Holly Hill estate and built a fence around the property.

Mr. Ames invoked an obscure state law to compel his neighbors to share in the cost of the fence, which is more than 5 feet high and made of high-tensile and barbed wire stretched between wooden posts.

Although a 1991 Virginia Supreme Court ruling sided with Mr. Ames, who is a lawyer, the fence was periodically cut by Mr. Brooks or knocked down by his bull, which wandered onto Mr. Ames’ property and mingled with his prize herd of Black Angus beef cattle, court papers show.

Mr. Brooks was prohibited by two court orders from entering Holly Hill, but Mr. Cooley said Mr. Brooks ignored the orders and entered the property through a back entrance with two men.

Mr. Cooley said Mr. Brooks had not paid the $500 that Mr. Ames had demanded for housing, feeding and treating the diseased bull, which Mr. Ames considered a threat to his Black Angus. Mr. Cooley also said Mr. Brooks had waited until he thought Mr. Ames had gone to work “so he could steal back his bull.”

A judge refused Monday to order a change of venue.

Jurors yesterday also heard testimony from a man who accompanied Mr. Brooks and said he did not swing the stick at Mr. Ames and heard a tape of the 911 call Mr. Ames made after the shooting.

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