PULASKI — A Pulaski County man accused of stabbing his best friend to death in a fight over a woman can await trial behind bars, a judge ruled Wednesday.

Brent Ethan Harrell, 20, was charged with second-degree murder after the Feb. 23 death of Chandler S. Dowell, who Harrell said Wednesday was his best friend.

At a bond hearing in Pulaski County General District Court, Harrell asked to be allowed out of jail, saying that his family could help him raise a $50,000 bail and that he would follow whatever rules were set for his pretrial supervision. But Judge Fred King said that while Harrell had little in the way of a prior criminal record, the circumstances of Dowell’s death argued against letting Harrell out.

“The immaturity you’ve displayed, being willing to engage in some form of combat, of fisticuffs, over this girl stands against you,” King said.

Harrell is the son of Valerie Harrell Alderman, the administrative assistant for the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office’s investigations unit. Her connections to the county’s court system prompted Pulaski County’s regular General District Court judges, and the county’s commonwealth’s attorney, to step aside from the case.

King is serving as a substitute judge and Radford Commonwealth’s Attorney Chris Rehak as a special prosecutor.

Alderman and other family members were in the courtroom Wednesday. She testified briefly that if Harrell were released, he would live with her and other relatives until his trial.

No evidence was presented Wednesday, but Rehak and defense attorney Jimmy Turk of Radford agreed that Harrell and Dowell’s fight was prompted by both men’s affections for a woman who was Harrell’s girlfriend, then began dating Dowell. The two men, both 19 at the time, agreed to have it out in the front yard of Harrell’s residence, a mobile home in the 7800 block of Cleburn Boulevard, Rehak said.

At about 1:30 a.m., in the midst of a rainstorm, the two men fought and Harrell stabbed Dowell in the neck, Rehak said.

Turk said that there was evidence that Dowell had gone to his vehicle to retrieve a gun, but Rehak said no weapon was found except for Harrell’s knife.

Rehak said that before the fight, a witness heard Harrell say, “He better knock me out with his first punch or I’m going to stab him.” Turk noted that after the stabbing, Harrell had called for someone to summon emergency medical crews.

Rehak said that the fight had been arranged in a series of text messages and that the woman who had dated both men drove Dowell to meet Harrell.

Harrell testified briefly Wednesday but did not discuss the fight. He said Dowell was his best friend and Harrell also answered questions about a construction job he said he would work if allowed out of jail.

Harrell’s next court date is a preliminary hearing scheduled for July 8.

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Mike Gangloff covers crime, breaking news and courts in the New River Valley.

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