Garden hoe fracas ends up in court

A heated argument between two neighbors that ended with one hit in the head with a garden hoe was recounted Monday in Richmond County Superior Court.

The defendant, John Manello, was taken to a hospital intensive care unit on April 24, 2008. He is charged with aggravated assault, possession of a knife during the commission of a crime and terroristic threats.

“He bit off a little more than he could chew,” Assistant District Attorney John Markwalter told the jury.

An indictment says Manello lunged at the victims with a knife during the argument and threatened to burn down his neighbor’s house on Alene Circle just east of Fort Gordon.

Opening arguments gave more details, though, including that Manello was cut so deep in the head it left brain matter in the yard.

Manello’s attorney, Charles Lyons, took an adversarial tone in his questioning, picking apart the testimony of the witnesses.

“The question to be answered is: ‘Why aren’t these people on trial?’” Lyons said about the victims.

Markwalter plans to use a past Manello conviction for obstruction of a law enforcement officer to emphasize a history of violence. The prosecutor said Manello threatened two deputies with a two-pronged grilling fork in 2003. One deputy drew his gun for defense, but Manello was subdued with pepper spray before a shot was fired.

Lyons spent Monday afternoon questioning one of the victims, Demetrius Harris, and setting up what Lyons expects will be contradictions between the testimony of Harris and his wife, who witnessed the confrontation from the porch of their house.

“You’re going to see they’re not on the same page,” Lyons told the jury.

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