BEDFORD - The first day of Randy Foor's Bedford County trial for allegedly killing his friend in a beer-fueled argument was marked Wednesday with solemn memories of the victim's life punctuated by a courtroom engagement announcement and references to the hit sitcom "Seinfeld."
Foor, 52, of Bedford Township did not take the stand in the opening day of his trial for manslaughter and aggravated assault charges. He allegedly pushed his friend, 49-year-old Dennis Sprigg of Manns Choice on Aug. 11 during an argument at a backyard gathering.
Sprigg fell backward and slammed his head off a hard surface, falling into a coma and dying at a hospital several weeks later.
During pretrial motions Wednesday, District Attorney Bill Higgins and defense attorney Thomas Dickey debated whether prosecutors could show jurors clips from "Seinfeld" to demonstrate the type of rough two-hand push the sitcom's character Elaine Benes often employed.
A witness suggested that Foor - who reportedly cried over his friend's unconscious body and attended his funeral - compared the push to those on the show: not malicious, but simply saying, "Get out of here."
Higgins portrayed the fatal push more violently: In his opening statement, he stomped a foot loudly on the ground, shoving his hands forward in front of jurors and he called it "forceful." Higgins acknowledged Foor's deep sadness after his friend's injury and death but maintained that he must be held criminally accountable.
Foor had pleaded guilty in December to involuntary manslaughter but later withdrew the plea as his attorney suggested a possible self-defense argument.
A key witness, 19-year-old Jacob Krabill - who attended the Aug. 11 party and described himself as Foor's stepnephew - said Sprigg confronted Foor first, shoving a finger in his face and shouting as friends urged him to calm down.
The pair, who police said were initially arguing about softball, were by then angrily debating how many car crashes Sprigg had been involved in, Krabill said.
"[Sprigg] was yelling in his face, pointing his finger at him," Krabill told jurors as Foor, dressed in a dark jacket and tie, watched closely.
A trio of emergency medical workers testified that Sprigg, bleeding from his ear and fading in and out of consciousness, shouted about having been "jumped" while his friends turned their car headlights on the scene. A man - apparently Foor - tried desperately to comfort him, they said.
Higgins portrayed the self-defense argument as Dickey's personal creation, noting that even Foor seemed surprised at the idea during jail conversations with his girlfriend, Robin Robertson.
Robertson, who took the stand late in the day, described herself as Foor's fiancee, leading a surprised Higgins to ask when they had become engaged.
They were engaged in October, she replied, but hadn't announced it publicly until she took the stand.
"Congratulations," he said.
Higgins drew attention to an earlier incident of violence between the friends, who one witness described as "like brothers." At a $1-a-hand poker game a few months prior, friend Randy Batzel said Foor accused Sprigg of switching his bet and angrily pushed $3 into his mouth.
"Dennis spit the money out," Batzel said, insisting that Foor would never intentionally hurt a friend. Higgins reminded Batzel that, during a police interview in the aftermath of Sprigg's injury, he had blamed Foor for the pushing incident.
The atmosphere in the Bedford County courtroom was tense at times, with people in several rows of the gallery. But neither side disputed that the suspect was deeply affected by his friend's death.
"We were talking and having a good time. ... It was a typical drinking party," said Sue Hileman, Sprigg's girlfriend in the months before the party. Hileman said she had never met Sprigg's friends before that night and had asked him to go home as he drank more and argued more angrily with his friend.
"He was a nice guy. I mean, he was a sweetheart," she said. "He was like everybody else that night: just trying to have a good time."
Mirror Staff Writer Ryan Brown is at 946-7457.