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Chadwell takes stand in his own defense, says another man shot Paul Henry

PITTSFIELD — Taking the stand in his own defense, J.C. Chadwell claimed Tuesday that police made false promises that prompted him to falsely claim responsibility for a fatal shooting he now says did not commit.

The prosecution, however, told the jury that Chadwell has a history of lying to paint himself in a positive light, and reiterated the Berkshire District Attorney’s Office’s stance that Chadwell had lingering hostility toward Paul Henry when he allegedly shot him at a bustling block party on Independence Day in 2017.

Chadwell took the stand on the third and final day of his murder trial in Berkshire Superior Court. After his testimony, both sides delivered closing arguments and the case was sent to the 12-person jury to decide.

Chadwell testified about his history with Henry, the reputation and fear he and the community apparently had toward the man he claims shot Henry, and his interactions with Pittsfield police in the lead-up to him making a confession that he testified Tuesday was false.

He said he met Henry around 2009, because he was a rapper and Henry a producer. The relationship between the two men soured, Chadwell testified, when what he said was a false rumor started circulating on the street that Chadwell had informed to police on his cousin, who in turn put out a bounty on Chadwell.

According to Chadwell’s testimony, Henry sought to recoup that bounty in 2012. That’s when Chadwell said that Henry came up behind him holding a blade he described as a “sword” and others have described as a machete, and swung it at him.

According to Chadwell, it was the shouts of a someone nearby that prompted him to duck. Chadwell received a “major slice” to his head that required staples and stitches to close.

He said he came to learn that Henry had attacked him for money, and after he confronted his cousin, “she said, ‘that’s what I get,’ and that she hopes that somebody eventually finishes the job.”

“I cooperated and I almost had my head cut off,” Chadwell added.

Approximately five years later, on July 4, 2017, Chadwell said he was at a large block party on John Street. He said he was drinking, smoking marijuana and had sniffed some cocaine by the time the evening rolled around. Also at the party was a man whom he identified by name, but who hasn’t been charged in connection with the murder.

The man, Chadwell said, was captured on a video taken at the party bragging that he was able to move in several different gang circles safely. Chadwell testified the man was able to represent different gangs because he supplied weapons — including, according to Chadwell, hand grenades — to them.

“The best way of selling the merchandise is to be able to move in different circles,” Chadwell told the jury.

Chadwell said he had no reason to expect violence the evening of the block party, which he called a family event that had drawn 200 to 300 people to the area of John Street.

He said he left to watch the fireworks, then returned. After he returned, the man he had described earlier pushed Chadwell out of the way, and fired a single shot at Henry.

Around the same time of the shot he said he turned around and saw that Henry had been holding a bottle of E&J brandy over his head. Chadwell said he hadn’t seen Henry coming, but that Henry had been attempting to attack him with the bottle, and only learned later that Henry had died.

Asked by defense lawyer Brian Murphy why he thinks the man shot Henry, Chadwell said the man may have had his own issues with Henry, or had been trying to save Chadwell’s life.

He testified that he then met up with Laura Truden, who drove him to a hotel in Chicopee, where the two had existing plans to do drugs and have a sexual encounter.

But he said Truden left when she heard about the killing through someone other than Chadwell, who said he stayed at the hotel for only a few hours before going to Hudson, New York for a job, as he worked at the time doing demolition cleanup.

Special Assistant District Attorney Brett Vottero disputed Chadwell’s version of events in his closing argument to the jury. He said the fact that Chadwell left town immediately after the shooting demonstrates consciousness of guilt.

On Monday and Tuesday morning, Vottero had played videos of interviews Chadwell gave to the Pittsfield police. In the video that captured an interview on Feb. 11, 2018, two days after Chadwell’s arrest, Chadwell confessed to shooting the Henry in self-defense.

But on the stand, Chadwell claimed a Pittsfield police officer had been “feeding” him information, and said that if he took responsibility for the shooting, he would be out of custody by the time his son, then 9, was in high school.

“He told me that he wanted me to say that I shot him,” Chadwell said, also saying that he had asked for a lawyer at least four times and was not provided one.

In addition, Chadwell said he was in distress upon being told by an officer that his sister had also been arrested for murder. He testified that an officer said his sister, who had had a cesarean section months earlier, had given police a “hard time so they had to strap her to a chair.”

He further testified that the office said his sister would be released if he confessed to the shooting.

“He told me that if I said I did it, they would release her immediately,” Chadwell testified.

Asked by his defense lawyer whether police fulfilled their “promise” of his sister’s release from custody, Chadwell said police “lied again.”

“I just didn’t understand how they would be able to tell me whatever they wanted,” he said.

Chadwell said he was afraid that the man who he claimed actually shot Henry would retaliate against him and his family if he told the police. But now, the fear of retaliation has subsided since no one has heard from that man in years.

“He was willing to risk three or four years in jail so he didn’t have to risk his life, and risk his family’s life,” said Murphy.

Taken together, the police officer’s alleged statement that Chadwell would be out in a few years, Chadwell’s fear of the man he claimed was the shooter, as well as the alleged police promise to release his sister constituted Chadwell’s rationale for falsely confessing, according to Murphy.

“He was pressured by the police. ... He was told that she’d get out that night,” Murphy said.

The prosecution rejected the notion that his confession was a false one, and sought to poke holes in other aspects of Chadwell’s testimony.

Vottero showed a crime scene photo that appeared to show the bottle Chadwell said Henry wielded above his head upside down like a weapon. In the photo, the bottle is uncapped and about one-third full.

Under cross-examination by Vottero, Chadwell said he did not see liquid fall out of the bottle when Henry wielded it.

“There was no raised bottle,” said Vottero during his closing argument, “just a decision by a man with a gun to use it.”

Chadwell, during cross examination, also acknowledged that he told police on Feb. 11, 2018, that he had been given the gun he said at the time he shot Henry with by the man he feared would retaliate against him.

In his closing argument, Vottero said Chadwell “shot Paul Henry on July 4, 2017.”

“He lied about it repeatedly,” said Vottero. “Even when he confessed, he confessed in a way that made him look better than the facts demonstrated.”

Recalling Monday’s testimony from then-neighbor Keith Martin, Vottero said a five-minute argument proceeded the shooting, which he said was consistent with Chadwell having seen Henry — a man who had “tried to kill him five years earlier” — at the July 4 block party, and having a fight.

“You can imagine the reaction when he sees Paul Henry again,” Vottero said.

“It is not believable that he falsely confessed to the crime and withheld the name of the man who pulled the trigger,” the prosecutor added.

Presiding Judge Jane Mulqueen told jurors they must decide whether Chadwell’s confession was given “voluntarily, freely and rationally.”

After closing arguments, Mulqueen gave the jurors instructions on the law surrounding the case. Chadwell is charged with murder and carrying a firearm without a license. Jury deliberations will continue today.

Amanda Burke can be reached at aburke@berkshireeagle.com or

413-496-6296.

Cops and Courts Reporter

Amanda Burke is Cops and Courts Reporter for The Berkshire Eagle. An Ithaca, New York native, she previously worked at The Herald News of Fall River and the Fitchburg Sentinel & Enterprise.

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