Five Shots at Close Range
Lessons from the Stephen Maddox Case
Part 1: The Facts of the Maddox Case
Most of the cases we explore in The Four Elements of Self-Defense are stories pulled from the headlines -- high-profile self-defense cases that can provide lessons for the concealed carrier. In our next series, we'll explore a story that is close to home for us because the shooter, Stephen Maddox, is a CCW Safe member. Stephen was prosecuted for first degree murder for the shooting of Kelley Wilkerson. Stephen gave us permission to tell his story, and for the next few weeks, we will explore how the elements of location, escalation, reasonable fear, and post-incident actions affected his legal defense, which included a significant contribution from CCW Safe National Trial Counsel Don West.
Stephen Maddox was a founding member of a motorcycle club in the Raleigh, North Carolina area. He was also an executive at a global logistics company, and a husband and father. Over several months, Maddox had become involved in some verbal exchanges with another member of the motorcycle club, Kelly Wilkerson, who Maddox had once considered a friend. Wilkerson quit the club, but the conflict continued to a deadly conclusion on the night of October 17, 2015 during a function for one of the motorcycle organizations in that same area.
At the rally, Wilkerson saw Maddox enter a restroom at Bill’s Convention Center, and he moved to confront him there, against the pleas of his wife. The six-foot-three, 290-pound Wilkerson tackled Maddox to the ground and tried to choke him. It took three or four men to pull Wilkerson off, but not until after Maddox cut him on the face with a small knife attached to his keychain.
Wilkerson’s wife said the cut bled profusely, and that her husband became “enraged.” Moments later, Wilkerson attacked Maddox a second time, and again, bystanders pulled Wilkerson off.
Maddox retreated to his motorcycle where he retrieved his .44 revolver. Shaken by the two attacks, Maddox said he he had “rubber legs” and didn’t feel stable enough to ride. He removed his club colors, he claimed, in hopes of making himself less recognizable to his attacker. Then he called 911 for help. The call was interrupted before Maddox had the chance to say a single word.
Wilkerson arrived on his motorcycle, dismounted, and began to approach. Maddox, certain he would be attacked again, fired twice, but he says the shots had no effect and Wilkerson continued to “charge.” Moments later Wilkerson was on top of Maddox, and both men ended up on the ground. Before it was over, Maddox fired three more rounds. None of the shots were individually fatal, but Wilkerson eventually bled to death.
After the shooting, the 911 operator called back. Maddox explained that he had been attacked and that he shot his attacker in self-defense. Soon police arrived. Maddox surrendered his weapon and cooperated fully with investigating officers. He voluntarily gave detectives access to his cell phone and submitted to three hours of recorded questioning -- without the advice of a lawyer.
About two hours into questioning, the investigators informed Maddox that Wilkerson had died from his wounds, which was news to Maddox. Soon it became clear that police weren’t believing his story and that he was in big trouble. Finally, Maddox asked for a lawyer.
Stephen Maddox would be charged with first degree murder in the shooting of Kelly Wilkerson. Nearly two years would pass before Maddox could sit before a jury and tell his side of the story. The jury took less than two hours to deliver a not guilty verdict.
Stephen is a CCW Safe member, and CCW Safe funded one-hundred percent of his legal defense. Normally, the cases we choose to profile in this forum do not involve CCW Safe members, but Stephen’s case had a number of lessons for the concealed carrier, and because Stephen feels comfortable speaking publicly about his experience, he asked that we tell his story so it may be an example to others.
While every case we explore is unique -- each with its own specific fact patterns -- we’ve identified four elements that play a critical role in every self-defense shooting. They are: location of the shooting, the escalation of the conflict, whether the shooter had reasonable fear, and the shooter’s post incident-actions. In this series we will explore how these elements affected Maddox’s legal defense.