Shooting At Bottles On A Log Ends With Murder, Four Trials, Long Prison Sentence

At his April 1985 trial, Coy Edward Bailey, Jr., of Woodside, Delaware, was convicted of intentionally shooting Frank Dukes to death on June 10, 1978. This was the culmination of a years long struggle to hold Bailey accountable.

Bailey’s was originally convicted of Dukes murder  in July 1980. While most murder cases would have ended there, this was just the beginning. That first conviction was later overturned on appeal and the case was remanded back to the Kent County Superior Court for a new trial.

Three years later, in October 1983, Bailey would once again stand trial in Kent County. As that trial progressed three of the state’s witnesses made references to the defendant’s first trial, one also referred to Bailey’s conviction. These references to Bailey’s 1980 trial and the resulting conviction caused the Superior Court Judge to declared a mistrial.

Bailey’s third trial in Kent County began on September 10, 1984. The jury at that trial was unable to arrive at a unanimous verdict, which forced the judge to declare a mistrial was once again.

It was beginning to look like prosecutors would not be able to obtain a conviction in the 1978 grisly murder of Dukes.

The murder, which occurred when a group of friends gathered to shoot bottles at a makeshift firing range, had occurred years prior. It was now six years since Bailey, Michael Sponaugle, and Frank Dukes were spending that Saturday shooting empty glass bottles off of a log behind the residence of Sponaugle’s parents.

Attorneys for the state believed they knew exactly what happened that day but couldn’t a secure conviction. They knew that Sponaugle told them that Dukes was setting up additional bottles on the log when Bailey intentionally shot Dukes with a .44 revolver, a claim Bailey denied. Sponaugle, the State’s chief witness against Bailey, went on to tell them that immediately following the incident he returned to his parents’ house and heard a second shot emanating from the shooting scene.

After the third trial ended in a mistrial Bailey ask for a change of venue. On October 18, 1984, Bailey’s motion for a change of venue was granted, Bailey’s fourth trial would be held in New Castle County.

On April 1, 1985 Prosecutors brought their case to trial hoping for a final conviction. The New Castle County trial was the end of the line. Bailey was convicted of killing Dukes and sentenced to life imprisonment without the benefit of probation or parole. He also received a consecutive fifteen-year prison term for the weapon’s offense.

Bailey, 70-years-old, died at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna on Saturday, June 2, 2018, just 7 days shy of serving 40 years. He was arrested the same day of the murder, June 10, 1978, and remained in custody until his death.



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First State Update's Delaware editorial team covers New Castle County, Kent County and Sussex County breaking news, political news, and general news stories. We bring the reader the latest news from the Wilmington, Newark, Dover, Rehoboth Beach and all point in between. If you have news to share, email us at [email protected].

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