A Durham man found not guilty of first-degree murder by a Wilson County jury last week said Wednesday that he wants to turn his legal ordeal into a platform to address substance abuse and mental health issues, as well as launch an anti-bullying campaign.
Steve Maddox contended he fired his gun in self-defense when he shot Kelly Wilkerson, 41, during a 2015 bikers’ event.
Members of the jury had the option of finding Maddox, a supply chain manager for a medical device company, guilty of first-degree murder, second-degree murder or voluntary manslaughter. But after a two-week trial, it took the jury less than two hours Saturday afternoon to render a verdict of not guilty of all charges, said Maddox’s attorney, Kurt Schmidt of Wilson.
“I think, after hearing two weeks of testimony into his background that mental health definitely played a role,” Maddox, 43, said Wednesday afternoon. “He had some anger and depression issues, based on his wife’s testimony. He was basically out of control.”
Maddox placed his hands over his face and broke down and cried after Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Milton F. Fitch read the jury’s verdict.
“He was just glad the system worked,” Schmidt said. “Obviously, there was a lot of stress waiting. But he was elated with the jury verdict.”
The shooting happened during the 10th anniversary celebration of the Queens of Chrome, a women’s motorcycle club, at the Bill Ellis Convention Center in Wilson. Wilkerson was shot outside the convention center. Maddox held a .44 caliber revolver in one hand and a cellphone in the other that he used to call 911.
He admitted he shot Wilkerson but told the dispatcher he fired in self-defense.
“This guy just attacked me,” Maddox said, “and I had to shoot him.”
The two men were friends. Maddox said he had helped Wilkerson in the past financially and with issues he was having at work.
“I would talk to him,” Maddox said. “I told him to enjoy his life and not worry about things you can’t control.”
Hours before the shooting, Maddox and Wilkerson were riding with about a a dozen other bikers on Western Boulevard in Raleigh. Maddox on Wednesday said that’s when Wilkerson first became angry with him.
“He didn’t like the way I was riding my bike,” Maddox said. “He felt I was riding in an unsafe way. He felt we should ride in formation.”
On the night of the shooting, jurors learned, Wilkerson confronted and physically attacked Maddox two times. Maddox testified that he feared for his life and retrieved the handgun that he kept locked away in his bike’s storage compartment.
“I called 911 before the third attack,” he said.
Wilkerson charged Maddox, who fired two shots that struck his assailant in the chest and abdomen. When Wilkerson then grabbed Maddox, Maddox fired two more shots that struck Wilkerson in the legs.
Maddox is trying not to become embittered by the case. But he was angered with what he described as faulty evidence presented by the prosecutor. He’s grateful that he had the means to challenge the prosecution’s case.
“It’s not the fact that you’re innocent until proven guilty,” he said. “You are guilty until you have the resources to prove you’re innocent. That’s our system.”