Testimony continues in PSHS fight trial

PARKERSBURG – Two central figures in the case brought against the Wood County Board of Education and a coach took the stand Wednesday in the second day of trial in Wood County Circuit Court.

Adam Cross, 19, who filed the lawsuit against the board, testified to the events and Drake Mills, who fought with Cross in 2010, changed his testimony and said he was doing what the coach asked of him.

Cross said he joined the freshman football team after the first two games of the season for Parkersburg South High School. Cross said his relationship with coach Dwain Sponseller got off to a bad start.

“At the first game (after joining the team) he told me to go fill the water bottles and to get the water containers ready and I told him I wasn’t the water boy,” he said. “He said if I didn’t, I would not be able to play.”

Cross said the trouble between him and Mills started in a class and ended with the fight.

“We all sat together and we were saying stuff back and forth,” he said. “He (Mills) took offense at something I said and then he said something back and kind of got heated but it was cut off by the teacher.”

Cross said he noticed a teammate sitting on a bench crying at a school bus stop. He went over to ask what was wrong. He said Mills came up to him, told him to stay away, then he pushed Mills and then Mills pushed him. Cross said another player got between them to break it up.

In the locker room, Cross said, Sponseller came up to him and talked about the incident.

“He said you can’t push someone and not expect them to retaliate,” Cross said. “He said you are supposed to be some kind of fighter; if you showed it on the football field you might be a starter.”

Cross said he was stunned by what the coach said but did not reply and tried to ignore it.

In the drills the South football players were supposed to stop short of contact, run in place and when the whistle sounded they were to run back to their starting position.

“On the final run I was told be another player that Mills was going to try to run through me and I just side stepped and let him run on by,” Cross said.

Cross said there was a lot of tension as the team went back to the locker room. Cross said he had no intention to fight Mills.

“I don’t really remember much about the fight; after the first punch I kind of blacked out,” he said. “The next thing I remember is I was lying on the ground.”

Cross said a teammate told him his nose was “broken bad.” After his dad picked him from the field and his grandmother insisted he go to the hospital, he does not remember much about that night. Cross said in addition to his nose he had a broken cheek bone and bleeding on the brain.

Two weeks later Cross had surgery and an MRI done after the swelling subsided found a spot in his brain.

Cross said he received a text telling him the coach was in the locker room but walked out when the fight started and came back after it ended.

Cross said he has been suffering from headaches since. A first he would have them two to three times a week and later he had them every two or three weeks but they would last for several days.

Cross said he never played football again and was not cleared to wrestle until later. Later his mother wanted him to be active again and he decided to learn to box in 2011.

Cross said he trained with local boxer Mike Sheppard and had five bouts with a 3-2 record. Cross said he was cleared in the fall of 2011 for weight lifting and then later for any activity. He wrestled for South during the 2013-2014 season, his senior year.

Cross said before the fight good grades were easy for him but after his grades were lower.

“In the past I didn’t have to study much; it all came pretty easy,” he said. “After that fight I didn’t change anything and my grades were not as good.”

In his testimony Mills gave a different account of what happened, laying the blame on the coach. Mills said Sponseller told him to hit Cross and he deliberately paired him with Cross on the drills. He testified he was told by the coach to run through Cross.

“On the field as other players were leaving Sponseller told me ‘if you want to fight, I don’t want to know about it,'” Mills said.

Mills said he did not know if Sponseller was in the locker room during the fight since his back was to the door.

“When it was over and he walked past me, I said ‘are you happy,'” he said. “He did not reply. He told me to get out.”

When he was outside, Mills said, he began to cry and felt bad about what happened. He said he did not know the extent of Cross’ injuries. He went to school the next day, was suspended and when he returned he was a target, Mills said.

“I felt anger toward Sponseller,” he said. “On my first day back and some kid attacked me and because I threw him across a table I was suspended again. When I came back after that suspension I was attacked by another and wound up with stitches in my lip.”

Mills said he voluntarily wrote his original statement in the vice principal’s office to save himself from expulsion and he accepted the blame. Mills said now he and Cross are friends, he quit football and never spoke to Sponseller again.

Mills said he decided to change his testimony from what he had given to the school resource officer and in a deposition.

When asked why he changed his testimony Mills said he did it after speaking with his parents and Cross’ attorney.

When asked if he was pressured to change by any party to the case, he said no.

Dr. Jay Alton Bauerle, a neurologist who examined Cross in 2011 and 2012, said he found no deficit in Cross as a result of the fight. He said Cross came to him over headaches that were traumatic headaches and were similar to migraines.

Bauerle said Cross said he was getting better. He said Cross could have a pre-existing migraine condition.

Bauerle said he could not say if continuing headaches suffered by Cross are from the 2010 fight or from taking up boxing.

“Many activities can trigger headaches,” he said. “I would need more data. His headaches could be long term or permanent.”

Testimony will resume at 9:30 a.m. today.