Brownsville woman’s murder retrial begins
The attorney for a Fayette County woman accused of fatally stabbing her boyfriend told jurors at the outset of the woman’s retrial Monday that “battered woman syndrome” will be used as a defense.
A jury in 2010 convicted Dayna M. McMaster, 37, of Brownsville of third-degree murder in the June 26, 2009, stabbing death of Clarence “Duke” Blair III.
Prosecutors said McMaster stabbed Blair, a tree-trimmer, in the heart while they were arguing on a gravel road near Cardale Elementary School in Redstone. Earlier in the evening, they had smoked crack cocaine.
McMaster drove Blair to Uniontown Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
McMaster was sentenced to 20 to 40 years in prison.
She was granted a retrial in August 2013, when a panel of state Superior Court judges found her attorney did not call witnesses whose testimony might have bolstered her allegations of domestic abuse.
The retrial began Monday before Senior Judge Gerald R. Solomon. McMaster’s attorney, Dianne Zerega of Uniontown, said she will present a witness on battered woman’s syndrome.
“This was a relationship that contained a lot of violence,” Zerega said in her opening statement.
Police intervened and charges were filed, Zerega said, but each time, they were dropped. Blair had used the knife on McMaster in the past, according to Zerega, and McMaster feared he intended to use it on her that night.
District Attorney Jack Heneks said the pair’s relationship “tumultuous” relationship did not rise to the level of justifiable homicide.
“No one has the right to take another life unless there is some kind of justification,” Heneks said.
Thomas McGee Jr. of Cardale testified he and his infant daughter were riding in the backseat of a Ford F150 truck with the couple several hours before the stabbing. Blair and McMaster were arguing when McMaster struck Blair in the head with a plastic tea bottle and pushed him toward the driver’s side door, McGee testified.
At one point, Blair stopped and had McMaster step out of the truck, but he drove just 20 feet before stopping and allowing her back in the vehicle, McGee testified. McGee said he feared for his baby’s safety, so he had the couple drop him off near the Main Street residence he shared with his girlfriend, Angel Bass.
Bass, 28, of Cardale, testified Blair, whom she considered an uncle, and McMaster drove up to her residence minutes after they had let McGee and their baby out of the truck. She said Blair went into the house to make a phone call while McMaster sat in the truck, shouting obscenities.
“She was just screaming, ‘I hate him, I swear to God, I’m going to get him,’ ” Bass testified.
Bass testified McMaster often became angry with Blair when the two ran out of drugs. When Heneks showed her a copy of her testimony from the first trial, Bass testified she told jurors then that McMaster shouted she wanted “to kill him.”
Charles Bauer, 24, of Masontown, testified he was working on a car at a Cardale residence when McMaster pulled up and had him call 911.
“You could see a guy inside, grabbing his chest,” Bauer testified.
McMaster, whose white shirt was blood-stained, got back into the truck after the man’s repeated requests to do so, Bauer testified. She then drove off.
Amy Keller, a Fayette EMS paramedic, testified she was at Uniontown Hospital when a woman drove up in a pickup truck and shouted for help because a man had been stabbed. She heard the woman, whom she was unable to identify, describe the stabbing as an accident.
Testimony is to resume Tuesday before Solomon.
Liz Zemba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-601-2166 or [email protected].