Prince William County prosecutors dropped murder charges Wednesday against two brothers who were filmed dumping a body and burning it in a Manassas parking lot.
In the aftermath of the October death of Antonio Ricardo Bailey, 44, prosecutors charged Gerry Lee Sword, 50, and Richard Dale Sword, 49, both of Springfield with first degree murder.
The Sword brothers were captured on a video surveillance camera, according to court documents, carrying Bailey’s body out of Room 43 of the Olde Towne Inn in downtown Manassas. The video also filmed them “driving the van across the street and removing the body and setting it on fire,” the complaint said.
The body was found in a parking lot in the 9000 block of Church Street, a busy section of downtown Manassas.
Family members said Bailey was homeless and often shared tent space with the Sword brothers in various spots around Prince William County.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Paul B. Ebert said in an interview that an autopsy and a medical examiner’s report showed that Bailey had died of a drug overdose, including Benadryl and Prozac found in his system. Those reports also determined that the fire did not kill Bailey, ruling out the possibility of murder, prosecutors said.
Asked why the brothers allegedly burned the body, Ebert said: “Probably because they didn’t want people to know that they were doing drugs.” He said, however, authorities are unsure of the exact reason.
Prosecutors say they will continue their investigation. “We will continue to turn over every piece of evidence we can to find out what happened,” said assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Rick Conway.
The Sword brothers were instead charged with the illegal disposal of a body, a felony that carries a maximum of five years in prison. General District Court Judge William E. Jarvis set a $5,000 bond for both brothers. The pair also waived their right to a preliminary hearing Wednesday, and the new charges will move to a grand jury in March.
Bailey’s family members cried out in court when it became clear that the Sword brothers were no longer being charged with murder. They said outside the courtroom that the Sword brothers’ alleged actions of dumping and burning Bailey’s body should be evidence enough.
“If they didn’t have guilt on them, they would have called 911,” said James Bailey, one of the brothers of the victim. He said that his brother had told him he had been fighting with one of the Swords — he was unsure of the exact reason — for months before they shared the motel room in October.
He said his brother was the kind of person to “argue with you one day and kiss you the next.” But he was unsure whether the Sword brothers had held a grudge.
“[The Swords] did something,” Bailey said. “But they can’t so-call prove it.”
A defense attorney for one of the Sword brothers declined to comment, as did the brothers’ family members.
This post has been updated from its original version.