Crime

Chester man, 70, stabbed his cousin to death, lawyers say. Was it murder? Jury to decide.

Chester senior citizen on trial after he stabbed his cousin/roommate to death

Melvin Fourney, 70, is on trial on a charge of murder in Chester County, South Carolina after prosecutors and his own lawyer say Fourney stabbed Leonard “Buster” Hayes in the heart with a steak knife. Prosecutors say it is murder, but Fourney’s lawyer said Fourney “couldn’t take any more” from Hayes.
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Melvin Fourney, 70, is on trial on a charge of murder in Chester County, South Carolina after prosecutors and his own lawyer say Fourney stabbed Leonard “Buster” Hayes in the heart with a steak knife. Prosecutors say it is murder, but Fourney’s lawyer said Fourney “couldn’t take any more” from Hayes.

Melvin Fourney of Chester is 70 years old with no criminal record. Yet even Fourney’s own lawyer concedes that Fourney stabbed his cousin and roommate “Buster” Hayes to death in 2015 with a steak knife.

Fourney gave police two confession statements that he stabbed Hayes because he was “tired of him,” prosecutors say.

The question jurors will decide this week in a trial at the Chester County Courthouse: Was it murder? Or did an 70-year-old man who had “raised” the man he killed had enough of his cousin, as Fourney’s lawyer said in court?

Fourney was arrested soon after Leonard “Buster” Hayes, 47, was found stabbed to death Sept. 1, 2015, in the Oak Street home the men shared in Chester. Hayes sat down on the couch to eat his lunch and Fourney “buried a 4-and-a-half inch steak knife in Hayes’ heart,” 6th Circuit Solicitor Candice Lively said in opening statements of the trial Tuesday.

Lively said Fourney’s reasoning in confessions to police was simple.

“Fourney told police, ‘I stabbed him. ... I was tired of him,’ ” Lively told jurors Fourney’s statements to police after his arrest say. “This is not a whodunit. This is a straight-ahead murder. Mr. Fourney had ill will in his heart.”

A murder conviction in South Carolina carries a minimum of 30 years in prison, up to life. If Fourney is convicted, he would be in prison until at least age 100.

Yet Lively told jurors Fourney’s age has nothing to do with the violent killing.

“Don’t be blinded by his age and that he was old and ornery,” Lively said.

Fourney did not speak in court Tuesday. But his lawyer, 6th Circuit Deputy Public Defender William Frick, conceded that the case was “not a whodunit, but a ‘why done it.’ ”

There was a reason for the stabbing, Frick said, and a murder conviction can only be rendered if the killing was unlawful. Fourney should be found not guilty because the stabbing was justified, Frick said in court.

Frick even acted out the plunging of a knife into a person’s chest. “He (Fourney) couldn’t take any more,” Frick said about the killing.

Frick did not say in opening arguments what specifically about Hayes, the dead man, Fourney could no longer take.

Hayes’ mother testified that despite her son living with Fourney for years. Hayes was “like a son to him (Fourney),” Thelma Hayes testified.

Yet a month before the killing Fourney told her, “ ‘I’m gonna kill your son.” Thelma Hayes testified.

The trial continues Wednesday.

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