Matthew Reed expected to celebrate his 21st birthday with old friends from West Springfield High School back from spring break. Instead, Reed spent the night of his birthday mourning, after unsuccessfully administering CPR to his friend Brendan Tash, who was shot on Reed’s front lawn on Cardinal Brook Court in Springfield.
"He was not breathing, his skin was pale, he looked like he had been badly beaten," Reed said. "Police asked us to go upstairs. … That's the last time I saw Brendan."
Reed's lips quivered when Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney John Murphy showed him a photograph of his friend taken by detectives after Tash's death.
A 17-year-old testified that he was looking for a party to go to with his friend Durrell Pretty, 19, and approximately eight other friends. Instead, the teen is now a witness in the murder case against Pretty, of the 5900 block of Queenston St.
"We were trying to go to a party," the 17-year-old witness said.
He and Reed were the two witnesses — out of 14 scheduled — who testified at Pretty's preliminary hearing on Tuesday, April 25 in Fairfax County General District Court.
Based on their testimony Tuesday, General District Court Judge Donald P. McDonough found probable cause to send Pretty's case to the Fairfax County Circuit Court grand jury in May.
Pretty, is charged with the March 6 murder of Tash, 20, of the 8800 block of Cameo Square in Springfield.
POLICE REPORTED that an argument occurred between people attending a party at Reed's house and another group of young adults who later arrived at the house.
The 17-year-old witness and Reed both confirmed this when questioned by Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney John Murphy and Robert Whitestone, Pretty's defense attorney last Tuesday.
"We pulled up, I got outside, we saw two people standing on the hill," the 17-year old said.
He said he was arguing loudly with someone on his cell phone, when people at Reed's party told him to shut up. The 17-year-old witness said they were told they weren't welcome at the party.
"Words started getting tossed back and forth," he said.
Pretty, the 17-year-old and his friends then chased the two people into the house, where Tash blocked the entrance, according to the witness.
"Next thing you know, practically the whole party came out of the house chasing us," the witness said. Most of his friends got in the car, but he and Pretty were stuck outside, the witness said, surrounded by 20-30 people, some with baseball bats and some with beer bottles.
"I was scared," he said.
But according to Reed, there were no beer bottles at the party, where he served a keg of Yuengling beer while his parents were upstairs in the house. Only six or seven confronted the 17-year-old and Pretty, the rest were simply standing on Reed's front lawn, he said.
"I went outside trying to calm everything down. I asked him to leave, politely. He pulled out a gun," Reed said.
"THAT'S WHEN Durrell fired one in the air, that's when I started running," the 17-year-old said. He heard three or four more shots fired but didn't see what happened next, he said.
Reed said Pretty was walking toward the crowd; Reed heard, but didn't see, four or five more shots fired.
"I turned around and dove in my front yard," Reed said.
Reed said Pretty "was standing on the top of the curb on my front lawn. He said, 'What now?'"
"By that time, people were running away," said Reed. "I went inside my house to tell them to throw everyone out. I was pretty angry at the whole situation … and, then, I saw Brendan lying on the floor."
Tash was shot in the back of the head; he was carried into the house by friends after he was shot, according to Reed.
As police began the investigation after ambulances were called, the 17-year-old and his friends met at Pretty's apartment, where he received a call from someone at the party who said Tash had been shot three times in the head.
"[Pretty] said it wasn't on purpose, it wasn't meant to be," the 17-year-old said. "After that, he was speechless.
"He said be quiet about it…don't tell anybody."
<b>MORE THAN A DOZEN</b>witnesses were scheduled to testify at the preliminary hearing Tuesday. But Judge Donald P. McDonough discovered that witnesses were talking about the case in the waiting area outside the courtroom, and he stopped the hearing after two witnesses testified.
Judge McDonough admonished all witnesses in the case, warning anyone who violates courtroom rules in the future.
"I could launch an investigation and put people in jail," he said of witnesses violating the rules.
Earlier in the hearing, one young woman was kicked out of the courtroom for using her cell phone despite warnings not to. She was told that if she came back to the courtroom, she would be arrested for trespassing.
"This is a courtroom, not a classroom. We're dealing with a man who is dead and your behavior … appears to be in concert with what we found that night," McDonough told all the witnesses.
<b>AT THE END</b> of the shortened hearing, Whitestone, Pretty's defense attorney, made a motion for the case to be dismissed due to lack of evidence that Pretty fired the shot that killed Tash.
"There is no basis to believe Mr. Pretty fired the shot or that Mr. Tash was shot outside the house," he said.
John Murphy, assistant commonwealth's attorney, said self-defense is not a viable defense in this case.
"This victim is shot in the back of the head," Murphy said.
Whitestone also requested for his client to be released on bond.
McDonough refused both requests.
"Not with what I heard," McDonough said.