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3/3/2013 6:00:00 AM
Hung jury, again: No verdict in Golden Valley shooting death
Two trials, no decision by jury in case against Venola
Richard Venola
Richard Venola
Suzanne Adams-Ockrassa
Miner Staff Reporter

KINGMAN - A second jury was unable to come to a decision on whether a Golden Valley man was guilty of second-degree murder after shooting his neighbor.

Richard Venola was charged with shooting his friend, James Patrick O'Neill, in the chest with a high-powered rifle after the two got into an argument while they were drinking at Venola's house. Venola claims he shot O'Neill in self-defense after O'Neill allegedly threatened to rob him and kill him with one of his guns.

Prosecutors claimed that Venola shot and killed O'Neill in a drunken rage.

Venola's first trial ended in a mistrial in January after a jury couldn't reach a decision after 2½ hours of deliberation.

His new trial started on Tuesday. The jury deliberated for about five hours before declaring they couldn't reach a unanimous agreement. The jury reportedly voted six to two in favor of acquittal.

It is unknown if the Mohave County Attorney's Office will request a third trial.

"He had so many possible options, but he was drunk and he was mad and he wasn't thinking," County Attorney Rod Albright said during his closing statements to the jury.

Albright pointed out to the jury that O'Neill's unarmed body was found facing away from Venola's garage and his house.

"Would a reasonable person believe that using deadly force against an unarmed man that was just standing there was right? Did he need to use deadly force? Clearly, no," Albright said. Any right Venola had to self-defense ended when O'Neill walked away from the argument in the garage, Albright said. But Venola escalated the situation by going to his truck, grabbing a gun and shooting O'Neill.

Venola's attorney, Ron Gilleo, argued that O'Neill was drunk and acting strangely. Venola didn't know what he was going to do. So he asked O'Neill to leave and said he was going to make sure his gun safe was locked.

It was at that point that O'Neill allegedly pushed Venola down in the garage and threatened to rob him and kill him in his sleep, Gilleo said.

Venola was very well versed in proper gun safety and had been in threatening situations before in countries all over the world and kept his cool, Gilleo said. But he never felt as frightened as he did the day that he got into the argument with O'Neill.

Venola is a former editor of the magazine "Guns & Ammo."

Gilleo also pointed out that Venola repeatedly expressed his remorse over shooting O'Neill.

"He told the detective, 'I'm sick, he made me do this.' He told someone else, 'I'm very sorry,'" Gilleo said.

Related Stories:
• New trial needed for Golden Valley shooting death
• Murder trial ends with hung jury

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Reader Comments

Posted: Thursday, March 14, 2013
Article comment by: Barbara Ziegenmeyer

This is so sad I knew James since he was a little kid, and I know he did not deserve to die this way. He was not a threatening person drunk or sober. This man Richard Venola deserves to be punished for causing James' death he should not be walking the streets, what will happen when he does this again. Where is the justice here?

Posted: Tuesday, March 5, 2013
Article comment by: sad but over

After two hung juries. Id say this is a case to cloudly to ever be clear.

Let the second decision stand and drop this. It's pretty obvious the outcome of another trial wont bring any closure or beyond doubt verdict.

Ive never heard of either man. I do think Mr Venola wishes this incedent had not ended as it did. Had he not acted on the threat he felt. We may be reading of a robbery/murder of Mr Venola's family instead of appearant self defence reaction.

After two trials. Drop this off the roster. Let these people on both sides try to heal from a sad situation. Blame has become moot.

Posted: Sunday, March 3, 2013
Article comment by: V Stokes

@R .
Mr Venola was in the Marine Corps....some active and some reserve as I remember. That's probably what the worldwide situations is referring to. Seems I recall he was on Embassy security as well.

I was in the Navy for 24 yrs and had my share of "threatening situations"...sometimes just walking where I didn't belong. Myself and a buddy once had 2 off safe Uzi's pointed at us by Mombasa police/army just taking a shortcut through a field back to the pier where our ship was docked. Some quick talking and a pack of smokes got us through it.....but it could have been an international incident otherwise. "2 Sailors on liberty killed by African police".

The difference was...they didn't threaten us (other than two 9mm sub-guns pointed at our faces) except to demand an explanation why we were where we were. They even explained it wasn't safe to be there.....after we all calmed down of course.

Posted: Sunday, March 3, 2013
Article comment by: np .....

a scene right out of "The Hatfields & The McCoys". Judge Wall Hatfield convicted the two McCoys for murder and sentenced them to hanging, then suspended the sentence and let them go. How times have changed.

Posted: Sunday, March 3, 2013
Article comment by: randy ruble

No third trial lots of money being spent... If you didnt get the conviction the second time and it was a 6-2 vote let it stand...
Sorry to the family for their loss in this situation...

Posted: Sunday, March 3, 2013
Article comment by: Al DiCicco

If 2 juries could not agree, the weak case is over. Stop wasting tax payer money.

Posted: Sunday, March 3, 2013
Article comment by: R .

"...and had been in threatening situations before in countries all over the world"

Hmmm, I've been all over the world too and not once have I ever been in "threatening situations." Almost have to wonder if certain personality types invite "threatening situations" and cause their own problems?

In my younger years, I would go bar/club hopping often, which of course involved drinking. I never had a problem. On the other end of the spectrum was one former friend of mine in particular, Joe, who would join me on many nights and drink with me and who I'd have to bail out of a fight no less than 70% of the time. It would happen most frequently after I came back from the since I wasn't there to see what started the melee, I'd ask him about it later and his answer was ALWAYS "I didn't do anything, they started with me..."

I'd say with certainty that if my former friend Joe were to have been one to travel, he too would have "been in threatening situations before in countries all over the world." That was clearly his personality type.

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