At an emotionally charged Tuesday afternoon (Dec. 19) plea agreement hearing in Warren County Circuit Court, Bailey Powell plead guilty and received a 16-year sentence for the March 25, drug-fueled murder of his 19-year-old girlfriend Leah Adams.
Powell, 17 at the time of the murder, was charged with Second Degree Murder. The sentencing range for Felony Second Degree Murder for adults is 5 to 40 years. According to court discussion, sentencing guidelines in cases with the age and other variables cited in this case ranged from 12-years, 11-months to 21-years, 7-months. Judge Clifford L. Athey sentenced Powell to the maximum 40 years, with all but 16 suspended. With good behavior, Powell could be released having served 85-percent of that 16-year sentence, or 13.6 years. He would be just shy of 32 years old at that point, or 34 if he serves the full 16 years.
Having accepted the plea agreement and rendered the sentence, Athey told Powell that unlike his victim, he would get a second chance at life. – “And I hope you take full advantage of it – if not, I guarantee you will serve the full balance of the sentence.”
Approximately 30 people, divided equally between Adams’ and Powell’s families and friends, witnessed the plea agreement hearing. However, only one of those 30 people, as well as the defendant, addressed the court Tuesday afternoon – both fighting tears throughout their testimony.
First, Leah Adams father was called to testify to his and his family’s acceptance of the plea agreement. And once that agreement was accepted by the court, Bailey Powell rose to address the court and Adams’ family.
“Leah Adams was a beautiful person … and she was the love of my life,” the 18-year-old Powell began.
Of the night of Leah Adams death, Powell added, “I think about it every day; I try to remember the circumstance.” He said his attorneys had showed him video of his being interviewed by authorities in the wake of Adams death. “I appeared to be a monster … but I took the drugs that made me that monster … I want her family to know I am very sorry,” Powell concluded in tears.
Testimony offered to proffer the plea agreement verified that Powell and Adams both had ingested the hallucinogenic drug LSD the night of Adams death (see additional detail in “Background” subsection below).
Prior to Powell’s statement to the court, Adams father was asked about the agreed-upon 16-year sentence. At the conclusion of his testimony he was asked if he was “comfortable” with the disposition of the case. – “Yes,” he replied.
However, getting to that point didn’t come easy for Leah Adams father.
“It’s tough sitting here knowing I’m never going to see my daughter again – and Christmas is in one week and she’s not going to be there … I want Bailey to understand what he’s taken from us. Every day is a hard day – watching my wife cry; watching my kids cry,” Adams said against tears. “She’s not going to get to do the things she wanted to do – it’s hard.”
Asked by defense counsel Beau Bassler if his faith had bolstered him in his acceptance of the plea agreement, lay minister Adams said, “Without my faith I might feel different. My faith has laid a lot on me.”
However, that tested faith retained forgiveness, as reported above when Adams told the court “yes” to the plea agreed-upon 16 year sentence for the second-degree murder of his daughter.
In accepting the plea agreement as a family holiday season approaches, Judge Clifford L. Athey addressed the tragic nature of the case and the loss of two families – one forever and one for the next 14 to 16 years of a son’s life: “Have the best Christmas you can have,” Athey told those two families.
As Royal Examiner reported earlier in this case, according to social media posts of both the victim and her accused murderer, Powell and Adams had been in a relationship for about 10 weeks at the time of Adams’ death.
According to testimony at an emotional May 25 hearing open to the public in Warren County Juvenile Court, Powell had ingested LSD, a psychotropic drug the day of Adams murder. Witnesses painted a picture of a suspect thrown into acute paranoia by his drug intake, then deciding to flee Adams’ Cherrydale Avenue home, where several friends were gathered, in her vehicle. Adams attempt to regain control of her car around 10:30 p.m. on a Friday evening ended about 3 blocks.
Law enforcement witnesses said Powell told them Adams threw the car into park from the passenger seat on the 100 block of Kerfoot Avenue, across the street from the Warren County skatepark and Skyline soccerplex. At Tuesday’s plea agreement hearing, additional testimony was proffered by the prosecution indicating Powell told investigators that Adams abrupt stopping of the car had “pissed him off”.
Neighborhood witnesses said the car began to move as Adams was attempting to enter through the open driver’s side door. As the car swerved to the right, northbound, eventually knocking two mailboxes over, Adams fell into the street. Witnesses said she rose screaming for help, falling at a driveway where she was initially assisted by residents, including a nurse and off-duty Front Royal policeman.
She was pronounced dead on arrival at Warren Memorial Hospital a short time later.
Powell was taken into custody after creating a disturbance about two blocks away, after abandoning Adams’ vehicle around the corner from where Adams fell fatally wounded from two stab wounds to the chest.
Witnesses who encountered Powell described him alternately asking people if they had a pistol and yelling for someone to kill him. Law enforcement officers, who questioned Powell the night of the murder, testified on May 25 that the suspect stated at various times that he didn’t stab Adams; didn’t remember stabbing her; or that it was an accident.
The officer who stayed with Powell throughout the night in a room where he was held at Warren Memorial Hospital, said he repeatedly asked, “Is she dead?” or “Is she really dead?