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Wednesday of last week was an emotional roller coaster for me. Up to the heights of joy as my fellow member at St. Stephen Catholic Church in Ona, Kent Stutler, 67 and handicapped by a bad leg, was found not guilty of murder. Down to the lows of shock and grief as I learned that my fellow H-D columnist, Dave Peyton, 76, had suddenly departed this earth.

Paula and I had on occasion visited Kent and his wife, Rita, at their beautifully kept-up place in rural Barboursville, where Kent spent virtually the past two years in an ankle bracelet he had to wear even in bed. He’d been mandated into home confinement awaiting trial for the shooting death of Philip Boggs, his mother’s boyfriend.

If you’ve seen the paper lately you have probably read about the trial in Cabell County Courthouse presided over by a youngish judge who’s actually my neighbor, the Hon. Greg Howard.

The trial date came suddenly, almost out of the blue, after Kent and Rita had been waiting anxiously for months. Word blitzed around our church community, and a number of us shook free from other obligations to sit in Judge Howard’s courtroom and follow the arguments and comfort Rita.

I missed the opening day, Tuesday, with jury selection, but was in the back benches for the entire second day of Kent’s trial Wednesday, on charges of second-degree murder.

Rita testified. Kent exercised his right to not take the stand.

Paula came down to meet me for takeout from China Garden on 6th Avenue. Others stayed on, waiting for a verdict. Having heard all the arguments, I had convinced myself the jury would never manage to resolve themselves in one evening, so Paula and I headed home about 6 p.m.

Around 7:50 I received a text from Kent’s friend Andy Footo that was short and very sweet: “Not guilty.”

The jury had inclined to Kent’s attorney’s arguments for self-defense during a fracas in which Boggs had been hitting and choking his smaller nemesis.

Not long after that I meandered into my emails and found Jim Ross’ short note: Dave Peyton passed away today. I knew that Dave had been struggling with poor health, but the news hit me between the eyes like a rock.

I had texted Dave just a week or so before saying how we missed him and missed having his column in the paper, and adding “Prayers for your recovery.” His reply, in his laconic fashion, ran all of two words: “Thank you.”

Dave invariably lit up The Herald-Dispatch, one way or another: with joy, with folklore, with sarcasm or irony, with wry comments on the socio-political scene. He didn’t like coal and he sure did not cotton to Donald Trump. Frequently he had a joke up his sleeve, to wit:

“A politician was asked his opinion of ‘sin.’ The fellow replied, ‘Some of my friends are against it, some are for it. I always stand with my friends.’”

I’m also a fan of The ’37 Flood, the old-time music group captained by Charlie Bowen. Dave sat in on autoharp. Others added guitar or banjo or even washboard. Dave loved the group and that kind of music. A good man gone.

John Patrick Grace is a regular contributor to The Herald-Dispatch Opinion page. He lives in Cabell County and teaches the Life Writing Class.

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