Prosecutors hoping to use prior statements made by the 4-year-old daughter of Journy Lee Snead during Snead’s first-degree murder trial hit a roadblock Monday, when presiding Judge Kimberley S. White reversed her earlier ruling and declared inadmissible statements made by the child in a forensic interview, pending further evidence.
White’s reversal came on the first day of an anticipated five-day jury trial that got underway Monday morning when the 12-person jury was selected with two alternates comprised of seven men and seven women.
Snead, a 32-year-old Sweeney Trail resident is on trial in Halifax County Circuit Court for first-degree murder in connection with the death of his grandfather, 75-year-old Floyd Leslie Crider.
Crider, a retired drywall contractor of Halifax, died in an apparent homicide that occurred on the evening of Thursday, July 19, at his residence.
Crider was found around 6:30 p.m. lying on the floor of his Sweeney Trail residence, dead from apparent head injuries.
On Monday afternoon, White made her ruling after the child, accompanied by her aunt, appeared via video in the circuit courtroom, answering questions from Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Will Hamilton and co-defense counsel John Hall Greenbacker, who is assisting his father, former prosecutor John Greenbacker, in the defense of Snead.
“Papa in heaven,” the child said in the interview, referring to her grandfather.
The prosecution, including Commonwealth’s Attorney Tracy Martin and Hamilton, hoped to use statements made by the now 4-year-old daughter of Snead during Monday’s interview to substantiate the murder charge against Snead.
Those hopes were dashed for the present, when White issued her ruling.
The child’s answers on Monday were in some cases contradictory to those she had given during an earlier forensic interview, and based on the answers to questions posed to her on Monday, the child had “no personal knowledge of the event,” White told the court in making her ruling.
The child also couldn’t describe what Crider looked like when he was dead, added White.
White said she “wasn’t terribly comfortable” making her earlier ruling without hearing from the child herself.
“I have a hard time finding her inherently trustworthy,” added White, who added she could revisit her decision based on additional evidence.
In her opening statement, Martin told the court a “tidal wave of pain” hit the Crider family last summer.
Crider was mean and abusive, admitted Martin, who plans to introduce evidence proving Snead hit his grandfather with a blunt object.
The clothes Snead was wearing, including the shoes he wore on video footage from Liberty Mini Mart when Snead and his grandfather were there together the morning of the murder, have since disappeared.
A medical examiner is expected to testify Snead struck his grandfather eight times with a blunt object, any one of which could be considered lethal, with one strike occurring from behind and the rest while Crider lay on the floor.
A blood spatter expert is slated to testify one strike was with so much force, blood spatter went across the room.
Snead had motive, means and opportunity to commit the crime, according to Martin, who said there was no reason to think anyone else would come home in that time period without being seen.
The defendant’s telling law enforcement he had heard his grandmother hired someone to do a hit is a red herring, Martin added.
Snead admitted to a cellmate he had killed his grandfather, then got rid of his shoes and clothes, the prosecutor said.
Snead’s child witnessed the murder and was exposed to “this very horrible deed,” she added.
In his opening remarks, John Greenbacker referred to the Criders as a dysfunctional family, involved with drugs and alcohol abuse, even drug dealing.
Floyd Crider himself had a long list of offenses, including theft and assault and battery, in places such as Caswell County, North Carolina, Fairfax and Prince William counties.
“He was an alcoholic and a brutal man when he was drinking,” said Greenbacker. “The family tried to stay out of his way.”
Greenbacker pointed to defense evidence indicating on the morning of his death that Crider had traveled to Kentuck to arrange a drug deal,” adding $1,500 was found in Crider’s front pocket after his death.
“Journy Snead had a decent relationship with Crider and was virtually raised by him,” said Greenbacker, describing the defendant as someone addicted to drugs with a record of check forgery 10 years ago, but who had his right to vote and hunt reinstated by the governor.
“Whatever his problems with drugs, he’s stayed out of trouble,” said Greenbacker.
Martin countered with testimony from Behavioral Health Counselor Christyn Swinney, who performed a needs assessment on Snead on the morning of July 19 and determined Snead was opioid dependent.
Swinney had turned down Snead’s request for suboxone treatment, because there were “no slots available,” and Snead turned down her offer to participate in counseling, according to Swinney.
Prosecutors and defense counsel heard testimony from Sheriff’s Deputy G. L. Jones, Deputy T. H. Clarke and Jonathan Benoun of the South Boston Fire Department, who responded to the scene the night of Crider’s death.
Martin focused on Benoun’s recollection of Snead’s demeanor that night.
Benoun testified Snead displayed no emotion despite being at the scene of his grandfather’s death.
When questioned by John Greenbacker, Benoun, Jones and Clarke all testified they saw no child at the murder scene during the time they were present at the home occupied by Crider.
Prosecutors had planned to present evidence Snead’s 4-year-old daughter was present at the time of Crider’s murder.
John Greenbacker instead told the court Snead and Crider’s wife, Gloria Jean Crider, were at Walmart the day of Crider’s death, with Gloria Crider discovering Floyd Crider’s body on their return home.
Snead is the first of two persons indicted in connection with the death of Floyd Crider.
On March 7, the grand jury indicted 71-year-old Halifax resident Gloria Jean Crider of one felony count of solicitation of another person to commit the murder of her husband, Floyd Crider, according to court documents.
She is being held in the Blue Ridge Regional Jail after her bond was denied.
Testimony in the case is expected to continue throughout the week.