Trial begins in 2015 fatal stabbing
FAYETTEVILLE — Rashad Santon Brown doesn’t deny he stabbed Cedric Oliver to death but his attorney said it wasn’t intentional.
Brown is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Oliver, 19, of Springdale. Brown’s trial began Monday in Washington County Circuit Court.
Brown was 17 when the stabbing occurred at a party Dec. 12, 2015, at 811 W. Peachtree Drive. Brown and Oliver knew each other from playing sports. Oliver graduated from Springdale High School. Brown attended school in Fayetteville.
The pair argued over something during the party — it’s not clear what — then got into a fight and Brown stabbed Oliver in the heart, according to the felony information given with the murder charge. Police found Oliver collapsed in the front yard and he was pronounced dead at Washington Regional Medical Center a short time later.
Officers found a bloody knife in a nearby yard.
Prosecutors said Brown, now 19, was the aggressor.
“Our victim, Cedric Oliver had gone to this party and he was confronted by the defendant Rashad Brown,” deputy prosecutor David Bercaw told jurors. “He basically came looking for a fight. They argued. Cedric was surrounded by the defendant and by some of his friends. A scuffle broke out by the back door and basically Rashad Brown started this thing.”
Party-goers told the two to take it outside, Bercaw said. There was shoving, some punches thrown. Brown had about 74 pounds on the taller Oliver and had him down.
Bercaw said the two were separated when Brown said “I’ve got something for that,” charged at Oliver and hit him in the chest once with a folding, lock-blade knife. The blade was about 3 inches long and punctured Oliver’s heart.
Police and emergency responders were on scene within minutes but were unable to save Oliver.
Paul Younger, Brown’s attorney, said the crowd at the party was encouraging the fight and at least one person helped Oliver.
Younger said Oliver was the aggressor and Brown, a 17-year-old high school student, only knew the person he came with.
Brown and Oliver were trapped in a circle of people who encouraged them to fight and at first Brown seemed to be winning, Younger said. Then, others intervened on Oliver’s
behalf, pulling Brown off Oliver and striking him in the head.
“At that point it didn’t matter how big the two people fighting were because it was no longer one man versus one man, it was one boy versus a group of people,” Younger told jurors. “After that group stood Cedric and Rashad back up, Rashad pulled out a pocket knife. He did it in a moment of shock from being struck in the back of the head, in a moment of haste when he realized the situation was getting out of control and the moment he realized it was no longer a one-on-one fight but a situation where those in the crowd would interfere and intervene in the fight on Cedric’s behalf. He took the pocket knife out to try to back people away from him, to relieve the situation.”
Younger said it was Oliver who charged Brown.
“Cedric came at him, failing to see the pocket knife, and the pocket knife ended up in Cedric’s chest. One small stab wound made by one small pocket knife that unfortunately went into Cedric’s heart and he died,” Younger said. “Because the stabbing was unintentional,
the death of Cedric Oliver was unintentional. After the stabbing, Rashad panicked and he ran to escape retribution from Cedric’s friends.”
Brown turned himself in to police later that day, Younger said.
Oliver’s longtime girlfriend, Sarah Merriweather, testified Monday that Brown was giving the couple dirty looks at the party and neither she nor Oliver knew why. Brown asked Oliver if there was a beef between them and Oliver said no, according to Merriweather.
Brown walked away, but came back and the two started arguing. Brown grabbed Oliver by the neck and they scuffled, Merriweather said.
The fight reignited in the front yard, Merriweather said. She said she didn’t see anyone intervene and there was no circle of people encouraging the fight. The two got up and were squaring off to fight again when Brown charged at Oliver, Merriweather said.
“He ran up to Cedric and hit him in the chest and it knocked him back into a car,” Merriweather said. She didn’t see anything in Brown’s hands and did not realize Oliver had been stabbed until he stumbled away and fell to the ground.
“He had a big gash in his chest and blood on his shirt,” Merriweather said.
The trial is expected to take three to five days before Circuit Judge Joanna Taylor.