SNOW HILL — An Ocean City man was found guilty this week of manslaughter and assault in the death of a West Ocean City bar owner last October with a Worcester County Circuit Court judge agreeing the internal injuries he sustained during a physical altercation outside the establishment caused his death.
Cyle Morgan Walker, who celebrated his 26th birthday on the night of the tragic incident, was found guilty Wednesday in Circuit Court of manslaughter, second-degree assault and disorderly conduct in the death of 707 Sports Bar and Grill owner Carey Flynn in the early morning hours last Oct. 6. Judge Richard Bloxom handed down the verdicts after a day-long trial during which several witnesses outlined the events leading up to the altercation, or “scuffle” as it was referred to often on Tuesday.
According to the testimony, what began as a somewhat friendly interaction inside the bar turned deadly shortly before closing time when Flynn went outside to move his vehicle closer to the door for his ailing wife, as he did on almost every night, and discovered Walker urinating on the building. Bartender Jack Dunworth, the first witness on the stand on Wednesday, told the court he was inside when Flynn called him from a cell phone to the bar phone to tell him he needed him outside.
Dunworth ran outside and found Flynn standing near his car with Walker about 35 feet away screaming expletives at the bar owner. Dunworth testified he walked past Flynn and attempted to diffuse the situation by trying to get Walker, his girlfriend and his father into a waiting cab. Flynn followed as Walker continued to scream insults and expletives at the bar owner and Dunworth continued to attempt to get Walker and his party into the cab.
At that point, what had been a verbal confrontation turned physical, and ultimately deadly, when Walker grabbed Flynn with one hand and threw a punch with his other hand, all in one motion, with Dunworth between the two men, according to the testimony.
Whether that punch landed was the subject of much debate later in the trial. Dunworth testified on Wednesday Walker’s punch connected with Flynn, but in Dunworth’s interview with detectives later on Oct. 6, he said the punch was thrown, but he wasn’t sure if it struck Flynn because of his position between the two men. What is known, however, is that the three men fell to the ground with Walker on the bottom and Flynn on top of him and Dunworth off to the side.
After Walker and Flynn agreed to release their grip on each other, Walker was able to get to his feet. Flynn, however, remained on the ground, breathing heavily from an internal injury only a later autopsy would reveal. Even after Walker was on his feet and Flynn was still on the ground struggling to breath, Walker continued to threaten and mock the bar owner, according to testimony on Wednesday.
By then, Flynn’s wife and a family friend were outside and helped Flynn to his feet briefly before getting him on a nearby bench. Flynn continued to struggle to breathe and then collapsed unconscious. He was taken by ambulance to Atlantic General Hospital where he was pronounced dead a few hours later.
Dr. Russell Alexander, a forensic pathologist with the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Baltimore, explained to the court he discovered numerous scrapes and bruises on Flynn consistent with an altercation and fall to the pavement. However, when he began his internal investigation, Alexander told the court he discovered the source of Flynn’s ultimate demise.
Alexander said he discovered a tear in an existing scar, or adhesion, in Flynn’s abdomen near his intestines that had caused the bleeding that caused his heart to fail. Alexander explained he found nearly four liters of blood and blood clots in Flynn’s abdomen that resulted from the tear in the adhesion. When questioned whether or not the tear could have been caused by an injury other than those Flynn sustained in the physical altercation, Alexander was resolute in his opinion.
“Because he was in an altercation, he could have had a direct blow to the area, or when he fell, a twisting or turning motion could have caused the tear,” he said. “It was a traumatic tear and he was an altercation that caused that tear.”
Defense attorney David Moore asked Alexander if Flynn’s pre-existing medical conditions, such as his weight, heart condition and a lap-band surgery several years earlier, for example, could have caused or at least contributed to the tear. Again, Alexander was confident in his analysis.
“The timeline sequence is compelling,” he said. “He fell down and he was in distress. He had symptoms immediately following the altercation. That’s why the timeline is so important.”
Alexander told the court Flynn’s internal bleeding caused his heart to fail and ultimately his death.
In his closing argument, Worcester State’s Attorney Beau Oglesby reiterated earlier testimony about Walker and his party getting into a verbal altercation at the Harborside Bar and Grill before coming to 707 to illustrate how Walker’s aggression had escalated during the night and early morning. According to the testimony, Walker had been in a dispute with a bartender at Harborside earlier and was asked to leave that establishment.
“It seems to be a situation that started as a night of agitation at Harborside turned into a night of aggression at 707,” he said. “There is no ambiguity on this issue of did an assault occur. The doctor testified it was a physical altercation that resulted in the tear of an old scar that caused Mr. Flynn to essentially bleed out.”
Oglesby painted Walker as the aggressor in the fatal confrontation with Flynn, who only grabbed Walker in self-defense.
“It was Mr. Walker who was the aggressor, first with the language and ultimately with physical contact,” he said. “It escalated because Walker reached across and struck Mr. Flynn in the face. It was reasonable for Mr. Flynn to grab Walker to defend himself.”
Oglesby said Walker continued his verbal assault on Flynn even after the bar owner was clearly in distress on the ground.
“The aggressor is clearly Walker,” he said. “Even when Flynn is on the ground, struggling to breath and his life is leaving his body, Walker still continued to come up and mock him. … The state doesn’t contend Mr. Walker intended for Mr. Flynn to die. But for Mr. Walker’s aggression, Carey Flynn would not have died that day and might be with us today.”
In his closing argument, Moore acknowledged the tragic events and told the court Walker continues to struggle with it.
“There is no doubt about this being a tragic event and my client and his family deal with it every day, just as Mr. Flynn’s family and friends are dealing with it,” he said.
However, Moore said the evidence presented no clear nexus between the “scuffle” and Flynn’s death.
“The state is relying on the straw that broke the camel’s back,” he said. “What we have here is a lot of doubt. The state has thrown its lot with Mr. Dunworth, but there is no evidence of Mr. Flynn being struck and we can’t say for sure if my client punched Mr. Flynn … We don’t know if the mysterious punch did connect. What we do know is there was a scuffle, a mutual affray. Was it a tripping, a mutual tugging and pushing? Without a punch, there is no assault. Can you have an assault without a manslaughter? The state is saying you can’t have one without the other.”
Bloxom retired to his chambers to review the evidence and testimony. When he returned, he handed down guilty verdicts on all three counts including manslaughter, second-degree assault and disorderly conduct. The first two counts each carry a maximum sentence of 10 years. Sentencing was deferred pending the outcome of a pre-sentence investigation.