PULASKI — A jury found a Pulaski man guilty Wednesday of firing his crossbow into the back of another vehicle during a road rage incident last year – but acquitted him of trying to murder the other driver.
Glen McNeal Grubb, 25, finished a two-day trial in Pulaski County Circuit Court with a jury recommendation for a five-year prison term and two six-month jail sentences. Judge Brad Finch, who will actually impose Grubb’s punishment, scheduled a sentencing hearing for Aug. 6.
The jury deliberated late into the night to decide a case that began with an abrupt conflict between two drivers – an altercation that defense attorney Michelle Waller of Bland described as “cat and mouse” but which Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Travis Epes called “seek and destroy.”
Jurors’ mixed verdict – convicting Grubb on three charges but finding him not guilty of attempted murder – came late Wednesday night after the judge barred prosecution evidence because it was not shared with Grubb’s defense attorney ahead of the trial as the law requires.
It also came after Grubb’s fiancée Amber Spicer changed a key detail in her testimony about Grubb's actions from what she said under oath at a preliminary hearing last year.
At the trial's end, Grubb was convicted of maliciously shooting into an occupied vehicle and also found guilty on two counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. The delinquency charges stemmed from the presence of Grubb's fiancee's young daughters in the car as he alternately chased and fled from another vehicle, and finally fired his crossbow out the window as he drove.
Amid the swirl of accounts there was a central agreement: Sometime around 8 p.m. on Jan. 2, 2018, Grubb pulled up close behind Jeffrey Porterfield, a 49-year-old lifelong county resident, and began swerving back and forth as Porterfield's pickup truck led the way up and over Draper Mountain.
The two vehicles headed out of Pulaski on southbound U.S. 11., Porterfield driving a 2013 Ford F-150 with an extended cab, a truck he'd bought a few weeks before, and Grubb at the wheel of Spicer’s 2003 gold Pontiac Grand Am. Spricer was in the passenger seat, and her two daughters, then ages 4 and 6, were in child seats in the back.
Porterfield, who testified there was another vehicle ahead of him, limiting his speed, “brake-checked” Grubb a few times, both sides said.
Within a few minutes, both vehicles were embroiled in a furious chase that led off U.S. 11 onto narrow, twisting roads, with each vehicle at times ahead of the other.
Porterfield called 911 during the incident, which ended with him parked at a Barren Springs convenience store, showing sheriff’s deputies a crossbow bolt that protruded from the rear of his pickup’s cab – embedded in the metal just to the left of the rear window.
Investigator Rose Farris of the Pulaski County Sheriff's Office testified that within a few hours, she found the Grand Am at Spicer's home in Pulaski. In the back seat, between two child seats, Farris found a crossbow and a quiver of bolts that matched the one stuck in Porterfield's pickup, she said.
Grubb and Spicer also were at the Pulaski house. Grubb confessed to Farris that during the encounter with Porterfield, he had raced after the pickup at 60 mph and fired a bolt out his window at it, the investigator testified. Grubb said he thought his family – his fiancee and her daughters – was threatened by the other vehicle, Farris testified.
Epes said it was only luck that kept Porterfield from being wounded or killed. If the bolt had been an inch or so to the right, it likely would have shattered the rear window of the truck. Even if the bolt itself missed Porterfield, he could have been so startled by it coming through the window that he could have crashed, Epes said.
Waller emphasized Grubb's statement to the investigator that he thought his loved ones were in danger. "I'll always believe he was protecting his family," Waller told jurors.
The evidence that was tossed out was a recording of a jail phone call in which Grubb, soon after his January 2018 arrest, boasted to his fiancee of his accuracy with the crossbow, Epes said. In the recording, Grubb said that if he had used a bolt equipped with a hunting broadhead, instead of a practice tip, he probably would have killed “that m-----------,” the prosecutor said.
But Waller protested that she had only received the recording on Tuesday, the first day of trial, and that the disc she was given would not play on any of her equipment. Epes said that he had mentioned the existence of jail recordings in hearings in the case last year but didn't relay specifics about the content he wanted to present in court.
On Wednesday, after a recess of about an hour for Waller to review the recordings, she renewed her objection to them. Finch said he agreed that the defense had not had a proper amount of time to prepare for their use.
Finch said that the jury could not hear the recordings during the guilt-or-innocence portion of the trial, though he did allow Epes to play two excerpts – dealing with an escape attempt Grubb discussed – during the sentencing phase.
Another point of contention during the trial was the initial whereabouts of Grubb's Barnett Rhino Sport compound crossbow, a weapon with a rifle-style stock and a telescopic sight.
Farris testified that when she took Grubb to a magistrate's office to process his arrest paperwork, Grubb said that the crossbow was in the Grand Am's trunk when he started the night's drive.
Grubb said that after Porterfield followed him off U.S. 11 onto Old Baltimore Road and connecting roads, he turned onto a road and pulled over, Farris recounted. Porterfield did not take the turn and continued on. Grubb said he got out of his car, got the crossbow from the trunk, cocked and loaded it with a bolt, then drove at 60 mph after Porterfield until he caught up – and fired, Farris testified.
At a preliminary hearing in May, Spicer took the witness stand and gave a similar account of Grubb removing the crossbow from the trunk then racing after the pickup.
But when she testified Wednesday, Spicer said the crossbow was never in the trunk, but instead was sitting cocked and loaded in her lap during the drive. She said that she and Grubb and the children were headed to the home of an uncle who had a lighted target and planned to practice with the crossbow.
It was a weapon that Grubb had acquired only a week or so before, though he already had killed a deer with it, Spicer testified.
She said that during the encounter with Porterfield, as the children began screaming and she told Grubb they had to escape from the other driver, Grubb reached over and took the crossbow. He held its tip out the window, "where it could easily be seen by headlights, just to scare whoever was doing this," Spicer said.
In another jail recording that Epes was not allowed to play for the jury, Spicer and Grubb disagreed on whether the crossbow had been in the trunk or in Spicer's lap. In the recording, Spicer told Grubb that it could not have been in the trunk, because the act of getting it out would signal premeditation, an element in the charges against him.
Asked by Epes why Grubb would tell an investigator that the crossbow was in the trunk, Spicer said that he must have been trying to protect her.
Part way through the jury's deliberations Wednesday night, jurors sent a message to the judge asking if there was any evidence from Grubb that he got out of the car to get the crossbow. After consulting prosecution and defense, Finch replied that he could not answer the question because this was a matter for jurors to decide.
Spicer testified that Porterfield twice ran the Grand Am off the road into ditches. But when Epes asked her if her vehicle sustained any damage, she said that it had not.
Porterfield said that he still was mystified by how suddenly the incident exploded. He said that when he drove down Draper Mountain that night, the Grand Am was so close to his tailgate that he could not see its headlights except when it swerved to one side or the other. He said that when the road widened to four lanes, he went into the left lane, following the vehicle ahead of him.
The Grand Am zoomed past on the right, Porterfield said. There was a thud as something struck his passenger door, he said. This prompted Porterfield to call 911 and a dispatcher asked for the license tag of the other vehicle, he said. This began his pursuit of the Grand Am down Old Baltimore Road, Porterfield said.
He said that he got within a couple vehicle lengths of the Grand Am as he relayed the license tag to a dispatcher. After that, he planned to make a turn in the narrow roadway and go back the way he'd come, he said.
But each time he slowed to a near stop to prepare for the turn, the Grand Am ahead of him also paused as if to keep him in sight, Porterfield testified.
Eventually the Grand Am turned onto another road. Porterfield said he continued on but moments later, the Grand Am was again behind him.
Porterfield said he called 911 a second time. It was at that point that he heard a pinging sound of something metallic hitting the cab of his truck, Porterfield said.
Porterfield said he arranged with the dispatcher to meet officers at a store where there was a lighted parking lot.
Spicer said that after the crossbow was fired, she and Grubb drove on to her uncle's house, then returned home to Pulaski a couple hours later. Officers arrived soon after, she said.
The attempted murder charge, like the malicious shooting into an occupied vehicle charge, was a felony that carried a potential sentence of two to 10 years in prison.
The delinquency convictions were a reduction from two initial charges of child neglect. On all the charges, jurors' options included finding Grubb guilty of a lesser violation.