On October 17th of 2015 Stephen Maddox was attacked three separate times by 41-year-old Kelly Wilkerson and his wife. After unsuccessfully attempting to flee his attackers, Maddox was forced to shoot Wilkerson.
A long-time concealed carry permit holder, Maddox felt he had nothing to fear from the legal system since he believed the shooting to be justifiable.
Prosecutors, however, were not convinced of Maddox’s innocence. He was initially charged with first degree murder, and eventually put through more than 2 years of legal proceedings which totaled over $300,000 in fees.
According to Maddox, he had been in a disagreement with an acquaintance, who had a problem with the way Maddox was riding his motorcycle during the summer of 2015.
“My response was ‘It’s my motorcycle and I’ll ride it the way I want too.’ In hind sight and knowing what I know now, I probably would have just ignored him. It’s not good to argue or even disagree with someone because some people are just not rational.”
Maddox’s assumption of his attacker’s rationality appears to have been justified. As it turned out, Wilkerson thought the confrontation to be a much bigger deal then Maddox had.
Wilkerson, who Maddox described as 6’4, 300 lbs. and wore big brass rings on every finger, continued to make threats on social media for months, bragging about what he planned to do to Maddox the next time they crossed paths.
However, Maddox had been completely unaware of the malice his attacker had for him since he says he does not frequent social media. Maddox’s first indication of the feud in question came several months after the original confrontation when Wilkerson attacked him.
On October 17th, 2015, Maddox was attending a motorcycle convention at Bill’s Convention Center when the unexpected feud boiled over.
Wilkerson, who was also at the convention with his wife, Adia Wilkerson, spotted Maddox for the first time in months heading into the restroom. Deciding to make good on his threats, Wilkerson followed him into the restroom and attacked Maddox, throwing him to the ground.
Wilkerson straddled Maddox and began to choke him with both hands, while his wife jumped in, kicking the back of Maddox’s head while her husband strangled him.
Maddox, who describes himself as 5’10, 180 lbs., was no match for the extra 120 lbs. Wilkerson had on him, and could do little against the bigger man. In desperation, Maddox was able to get out a small knife on his key chain and attempted to dissuade his attacker.
The knife did little, but Maddox scored a small cut on Wilkerson’s face before 4 other men rushed over to drag Wilkerson from his victim.
Maddox hurriedly made his escape, slipping out the front door and heading to what he hoped to be the safety of his motorcycle.
According to Mrs. Wilkerson’s testimony, her husband had been enraged by the cut Maddox had given him. They both immediately left via a side exit and cut Maddox off as he headed to his motorcycle in the convention center parking lot.
Again, the husband and wife duo attacked him, Wilkerson's wife jumped on top of their victim while he pinned Maddox to a car. But, once again, Maddox was able to break free. He dialed 911 as he ran to his motorcycle where he had stashed his .44 caliber revolver he was licensed to carry concealed.
Before Maddox had time to speak with the 911 operator, however, the relentless Wilkerson roared up on his motorcycle and charged him once again. Wilkerson, who has been known to carry a weapon, and whose wife admitted to being armed with a gun that night, was shot by Maddox twice in the chest as he charged.
But, the .44 caliber bullets didn’t stop the big man as he pounded toward his target. He leapt atop Maddox and the two of them began to roll on the ground until Maddox fired his gun 3 more times into Wilkerson’s lower legs.
Wilkerson received a total number of 5 gunshot wounds. While none of the wounds themselves proved fatal, all combined caused Wilkerson to weaken enough for Maddox to finally break free for the third time in 7 minutes.
Then, Maddox's phone began to ring as the 911 operator returned the call he had dropped when Wilkerson pulled up on his cruiser and charged him.
Unfamiliar with the area, it took Maddox a few frantic moments to find street signs and landmarks to give his location to the operator. Soon, police squad cars pulled up to the scene and took control.
Maddox was taken into custody and questioned by detectives for three hours. Maddox, trusting the justice system to exonerate him, waived his Miranda Rights and answered every question to the best of his ability.
“You say only bad people need to lawyer up,” Maddox said. “And the biggest mistake I made that night was that I did cooperate. I told them everything that happened, went into details to the best of my abilities to recap what happened.”
“But the police, they had a dead guy on a Saturday night at an event and they had had to charge me with first degree murder. They thought ‘This is nonchalant, this guy shot him (Wilkerson) off his motorcycle, we’re gonna lock him up.’”
Officers took Maddox to the county jail where he was booked without bond. After that, Maddox’s problems continued to pile up.
The length of time it took for the judicial system to finally get around to processing Maddox’s case meant that he suffered outside of the court case as well. Not allowed to travel outside the area due to his 1st degree murder charge, Maddox lost his job.
CCW Safe not only payed his $500,000 bond to get out of jail, they hired a legal defense team which included expert witnesses and a private detective, and assisted Maddox with the severance package details with his employers. All of which cost over $300,000.
With his severance intact, Maddox then looked to the job market for new employment.
Desperate to provide for his family, Maddox says he submitted dozens of applications to other companies. But when employers caught a whiff of his pending murder trial, they were quick to distance themselves.
Maddox says that the impact to his family from the shooting was one of the hardest parts about the experience.
“I did everything I could to avoid using deadly force. It bothers me when I hear some one say, ‘Well, if someone’s on my property I’m going to shoot em,’ or ‘if someone’s stealing out of my car I’m going to shoot em.’ I just want to say that if you are going to discharge a firearm and shoot someone, that is a life changing event for your whole family. And you may be able to deal with it, but ask yourself, can your children, can your wife? Can they deal with all the scrutiny of someone losing their life because you had to defend yourself?”
To Maddox, his case didn’t seem to be following the logical path he assumed would occur since he had been within his 2nd Amendment rights to defend himself. Even though Maddox had been a lifetime law abiding citizen who followed all the appropriate legal channels, he was still at risk of spending his entire life in prison due to the incompetence of the State of North Carolina legal system.
“I survive one incident where I could have lost my life, and now the state of North Carolina gave me a firearm permit to carry a firearm for self-defense, you know, what else is a firearm for right? So you (the state of North Carolina) give me a permit, you say that I’m responsible, I qualify for it, I use it and now you want to basically take my life away from me and put me in prison for the rest of my life? In the state of North Carolina, it’s the rest of your natural life in prison for murder.”
Fortunately for Maddox, he had a significant ally in his corner helping him prepare for the legal fight.
“CCW Safe conducted a thorough investigation weeks after me being released. They jumped into investigation mode, hired a private investigator, and talked with dozens of witnesses. So, we knew exactly what happened that day. For those of you who are not familiar with the judicial system, you think that they are looking at all the evidence. (However) the Distract Attorney, as well as the detectives, did not start contacting eye witnesses until 6 weeks before trial.”
Maddox went on to say that, not only did law enforcement officials drag Maddox’s case on for an agonizingly long period of time without even bothering to look into the evidence, they made sloppy errors when reviewing that evidence.
Prosecutors presented to the judge presiding over Maddox’s grand jury trial with video evidence which they claimed proved Maddox was lying about what happened that night. According to the DA, Maddox is seen at his motorcycle with his gun before Wilkerson and his wife are seen exiting the building in pursuit.
Since the video footage did not appear to support Maddox’s side of the story, it was promptly assumed he was lying.
Maddox’s defense team had already reviewed the evidence collected by the private investigator hired by CCW Safe, they had a clear understanding of the security cameras.
“Within weeks of me being indicted, they already knew that the video surveillance was on 2 separate DVRs, one was “X” amount of minutes ahead of the other one. So, they knew that the justification for charging me with first degree murder was complete bull****.”
Again, Maddox was failed by the North Carolina Justice System when it took police more than 18 months to admit to their mistake.
How much it cost:
“There was an extensive amount of money paid to expert witnesses. The medical examiner admitted under oath that there was a trainee that actually conducted the autopsy, and she (the medical examiner) signed off on it.” Maddox said. “They assumed I was right handed. And that the bullet trajectory had going from inside-out from the two (GSW) entries on the legs.”
“I even told them when they tried to test my right hand for gun (powder) residue. I said, ‘Look, I’m left handed I used my left hand.’ But they proceeded to test my right hand. Just the craziest thing.”
During the course of the investigation, Maddox’s legal defense team thought the medical examiner’s report deserved a closer inspection as it also appeared that the report had been written based only on the opinions of the officers who responded that night.
The autopsy report, pictures, and X-rays where sent to an expert witness who confirmed that the medical examiners report and the pictures didn’t match up.
“The expert witness said, ‘This is all wrong.’ So, my legal team went back the state medical examiner, and she agreed, ‘You know what, your guy is right, this is wrong, the trajectory and everything is all wrong.’
So, she actually amended her initial report weeks before the trial. And she blamed the person that actually conducted the autopsy. That report is not written off of facts, it’s written off of someone’s opinion. Had CCW Safe not hired those expert witnesses, me, as well as the judge and jury, would have only heard the State’s version of what had happened. And it was complete nonsense.”
The rest of the trial went much the same way with detail after detail being revealed of the incompetence which resulted in the upheaval of the life of an innocent man.
“In my opinion, even when the state presented their evidence, the (defense) lawyers did a good job of showing how the detectives and everyone did an (extremely sloppy) job. And how CCW Safe had to hire and pay someone $60,000-$80,000 to go out and do what the detectives should have done. So, it was a lot of embarrassment on the State, and I believe that the DA gave up on the trial half way through it. He gave up, he threw in the towel. I think he was blindsided by a lot of the stuff he was told, and the facts back that up.”
Having finally been exonerated in the fatal shooting of Wilkerson, Maddox was released a free man more than two years after the ordeal began.
The danger he faced when confronting a man who appeared to be trying to beat him to death, continued on long after Wilkerson had died.
Maddox almost spent the rest of his life in prison because of incompetence and a complete lack of duty, and was ignored by those charged with the monumentally important commission of seeing justice served, and the innocent protected.
If you carry a firearm for self-defense, CCW Safe may be worth a look. Prepare for your legal defense, after your personal defense. Hopefully you won’t need their services, but you just might.
You can listen to the full interview with Stephen Maddox by Jacob Paulsen and Riley Bowman here at the Concealed Carry Podcast.