ROGERSVILLE - The murder trial of Ronnie W. Bledsoe, which was scheduled to begin this morning, has been postponed to give attorneys more time to prepare a defense for Bledsoe and his brother, a co-defendant.
Sullivan County Criminal Court Judge Rob Montgomery is presiding over the Bledsoe case due to the potential for a conflict of interest between 3rd Judicial District Circuit Judge John Dugger and the Boyd Law Office that represents Bledsoe. Dugger, through his private practice, and the Boyd Law Office are involved in an unrelated civil case.
Following a hearing last week, Montgomery approved a motion to continue the trial.
Rogersville attorney Daniel Boyd filed that motion on behalf of his client Ronnie Bledsoe, 39, 551 Center Pumpkin Valley Road, Eidson, asking for a trial date during the court's "next Hawkins County term," which would begin in June.
Bledsoe, who remains free on $200,000 bond, is charged with first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder in the July 21, 2005, shooting death of Chad Allen Williams, 22.
The continuance motion filed by Boyd states "there are questions of law still being raised, researched and prepared for proper presentation. The outcome of this research could affect counsel's statutory need to review the post-conviction petition for needed amendments."
The motion further states "additional time is needed to interview possible additional witnesses which would and could affect the outcome of this trial."
A similar motion was filed by Public Defender Greg Eichelman and approved for Bledsoe's brother and co-defendant Rodney Lee Bledsoe, 31, same address, who is charged with party to first-degree murder and accessory after the fact. Rodney Bledsoe also faces meth manufacturing charges and is free on $60,000 bond.
During last week's hearing, it was also raised that the Bledsoe brothers may claim inadequate counsel and seek new attorneys. Such a move might also delay the trial for an indeterminate amount of time.
According to police reports and testimony from the brothers' preliminary hearing held in September 2005, Ronnie Bledsoe had been estranged from his wife - Williams' mother - and the mother was living with Williams at the time of the shooting.
There was testimony during the preliminary hearing that Williams and Ronnie Bledsoe had arguments about Williams' mother, and Williams didn't want Ronnie Bledsoe "bothering" her.
The day of the shooting, Ronnie and Rodney Bledsoe reportedly came upon Williams' vehicle at the intersection of Route 70-N and Clinch Valley Road.
Williams' passenger, Travis Baker, testified during the preliminary hearing that the Bledsoe brothers pulled into their path at the intersection, blocking the roadway.
Baker said the brothers and Williams then exchanged threats, after which the brothers ordered Williams out of his vehicle. When Williams refused, the brothers allegedly tried to force Williams out of the pickup, at which time Baker said he saw Ronnie Bledsoe shoot Williams in the stomach with a .30-.30 rifle.
Baker said after the shooting Ronnie Bledsoe pointed the rifle at him and said he was next.
An attorney who temporarily represented the Bledsoe brothers shortly after their arrest told the Times-News the brothers are claiming self-defense. Ronnie Bledsoe reportedly stated that Williams was "out looking for him."
Attorneys on both sides of the case are now prevented from discussing the case due to a gag order being issued.
Williams' mother contacted the Times-News last week and expressed her disappointment over the postponement. Although she asked not to be identified by name, she did say she is concerned for the safety of herself and prosecution witnesses while the case remains unresolved.
She also said she believes the Bledsoe brothers are intentionally stalling the beginning of the trial with their claims of inadequate counsel.
"This has been dragging on long enough," she said. "I just want this case over so I can get on with my life."