A General District Court judge denied bond Friday morning for the 27-year-old local woman charged with second degree murder in the June 16 shooting death of James Manning at his home in Barboursville.
Defendant Brianna Knicely, of Gordonsville, will remain in custody at Central Virginia Jail pending trial, on additional charges as well as of use of a firearm in the commission of a felony and shooting into an occupied dwelling.
The case was certified to the grand jury which will meet July 26 to hear evidence in the case.
“The bottom line—he was shot in his own home,” said Orange County Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Donald Judy. The blood trail shows Manning was trying to flee his attacker, he said in court Friday.
According to the prosecution, Knicely drove, with a loaded gun in her purse, to the house off of Route 33 where 36-year-old Manning lived with his wife, a son and two daughters. He was home alone at the time.
The defendant knew of Manning, an Army veteran who worked for UPS, through his wife, who had an in-home daycare business. She had provided daycare for Knicely’s two young children.
On the day of the crime, Judy said Knicely, who lived a few miles away, approached the Manning house armed with the gun and shot, the first bullet hitting the front door. A total of four shots were fired at him into the home, according to testimony.
She later told investigators she did it, the prosecutor said.
“We have someone shot to death in his home while trying to flee and the defendant has admitted to doing it,” Judy said.
The prosecutor said Knicely “deceived people” to get use of a vehicle to go to the crime scene. He described the defendant as having “delusions” and “full of malice for others.”
“She has every incentive in the world to get lost if she gets out,” he said in arguing against Knicely’s release at the bond hearing.
The prosecutor asked Judge Claiborne Stokes to hold Knicely without eligibility for release from jail prior to trial—due to the serious nature of the offense and evidence against her. He said she posed an unreasonable danger to herself and others and was a flight risk.
The defendant, who left the crime scene and was picked up in Culpeper County later on June 16, the night of the shooting, told Orange authorities she shot the victim after Manning pulled her hair during an “alleged conflict,” according to the prosecutor.
He added these statements by Knicely are self-serving, inaccurate and a fabrication of events, referring to contradictory physical evidence at the scene. The prosecutor said the accused was “somebody making a plan to shoot a man to death,” saying it’s not credible for her to claim it was self-defense in the moment.
“Someone pulled her hair so she shot him four times,” Judy said. “We don’t know how many more grudges she has—something will snap in her mind…because he is dead doesn’t mean she won’t hurt other people.”
The defendant was present in court dressed in an orange jail jumpsuit marked ‘CVRJ’ on the back. She stood in front of the judge next to Louisa defense attorney Richard Harry, turning around to look at her mother and other associates seated in the front row behind the defense table.
Knicely frequently shook her head ‘no’ during the brief hearing even when agreeing with the judge to waive her right to a preliminary hearing.
Harry, in arguing for reasonable bail conditions, said his client was a lifelong resident of Orange County, where all her family also lives. She has no record of violence or prior criminal history, he said.
“The horrific circumstances of this case will be brought forward,” the defense attorney said. “There were other factors.”
The defense called the defendant’s mother, Jessica Atkins, to testify at the bond hearing. She testified she lives through the woods from her daughter, who lived with her boyfriend and children, who Atkins said are now in foster care.
The defendant’s mother said Knicely was unemployed at the time of the shooting incident and taking care of her children. Atkins said the family would support her release from jail through use of a GPS tracker and curfew.
Judge Stokes, in denying the woman’s release, said second degree murder “is one of the worst crimes committed in our state,” carrying a prison term of almost 40 years.
“You are bringing a handgun in your purse to someone’s house,” the judge said, questioning the statement that Manning pulled her hair.
Even if that was true, Stokes said, “You have to use proportional force. That’s not self-defense,” the judge said. “That’s considered murder.”
Stokes said Knicely was possibly a danger to society.