Buis not guilty of murder

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Jury instead finds him guilty of fourth degree assault on Mark Ponder

By Charlie VanLeuven

By Charlie VanLeuven


Jason Buis, of Yosemite, was found guilty of misdemeanor fourth degree assault after a trial alleging he murdered Mark Ponder, 65, of Yosemite, in June 2016.

Ponder suffered a heart attack hours after a fight with Buis. Three days later he was taken off of life support and died.

The four-day trial featured emotional evidence from the prosecution and expert testimony, along with witnesses to the fight.

Prosecutor Jeffrey R. Prather argued that Buis, who broke Ponder’s nose, ribs, and facial bones in the fight, had caused the heart attack. They said that Ponder never struck back while Buis rained blows down on him.

Defense attorneys Cameron Griffith and Ted Lavit said that Ponder provoked Buis to fight and the heart attack could have happened regardless of the fight.

The fight happened at Breeden Withers Grocery store at around 8:45 p.m. June 25, 2016. Both sides agreed that Ponder was upset about the destruction of property at a home he was renting.

According to surveillance footage from the store, Ponder approached Buis from behind, while Buis was pumping gas, and was angry with him. Brandon Buis, Jason’s fourth cousin and Ponder’s second cousin, pulled Ponder away and spoke with him.

Jason Buis began walking toward the store, but stopped after Ponder began talking to him again. Ponder approached Jason Buis, and Buis swung and hit Ponder in the face. The two then wrestled to the ground.

They were broken up, and Jason Buis left the scene. Ponder left in another car.

According to Beverly Drummond, Ponder’s companion for 30 years, he went home and was sitting in a recliner, holding ice to his face, with blood still coming out of his nose, which was obviously broken.

She told him they had to go to the emergency room, which Ponder at first declined, but then saw his face in the mirror. The two took a truck, went back to the store to retrieve Ponder’s glasses, which were struck off his face, and then traveled toward Danville to the Ephraim McDowell Hospital.

Ponder slumped forward and began breathing irregularly. Drummond pulled over to the Country Club store off of U.S. Highway 127 at around 9:55 p.m., and used the store’s phone to call for an ambulance.

The jury heard the emergency call to dispatch, wherein Drummond pleaded with Ponder to keep breathing. He stopped breathing.

EMS arrived, took Ponder to Casey County Hospital, where he began breathing again, and he was flown via air ambulance to UK hospital. After three days on life support, he was given a bad prognosis for recovery. The heart attack, and subsequent cardiac arrest, had stopped blood flow to his brain.

According to Dr. Jonathan Smith, a neurologist called to testify by the prosecution, Ponder was comatose, with “diffuse injury to his brain.” After giving Ponder three days to recover, with no improvement gained, Ponder’s family decided to remove life support.

General cardiologist Paul Anaya from UK hospital said that Ponder had a history of heart disease. He explained that unstable cholesterol plaques can become displaced and lodge in an artery. The body reacts to the clog as an injury and clots around the clog.

He said that Ponder’s left anterior descending artery was completely blocked off, preventing blood flow to his heart, which then went into arrest.

In cross-examination by Lavit, he said that the cause of the unstable plaque becoming displaced was unknown, but could have been due to the fight, or due to the emotional state of Ponder.

Brandon Buis told jurors that Ponder had initial came to his house just prior to the fight at Breeden Withers Grocery store, and was yelling at Jason Buis about property before he got Ponder to leave. Then at the grocery store, Brandon Buis said that Ponder was yelling over Jason Buis’ shoulder and that Ponder calling Jason a “son of a b****” was an escalating statement in the confrontation. Brandon Buis said that Jason had thrown the first punch, but after the fight Jason had expressed regret for the fight and had said he did not want to fight Ponder.

Charles Colman said he heard loud voices from outside the store when he was there right before the fight. He said that when he came out of the store he heard Ponder say, “I wish I wouldn’t have said that” regarding calling Jason Buis a “son of a b****.” Colman said after the fight he drove Ponders motorcycle home while Ponder got a ride home from another individual.

Dr. Meredith Crane, a medical examiner for the states medical examiners office, who performed the autopsy on Ponder and concluded that he had died from trauma that caused the heart attack. She said that Ponder did have an enlarged heart, had previous stints and had heart disease. She said Ponders heart attack was due to hypertension that was elevated due to the assault. The defense argued that Crane could not say whether the heart attack was due to the assault or from the fact that Ponder had been upset for a period of time.

Iva Clemens said that Jason Buis had told Ponder to get away from during the agreement and was putting his hands up while he was being talked to like garbage. She also stated that Ponder had told Jason Buis if he found him on his property again he would kill him, something that Clemens failed to mention to police when she was questioned about the event earlier.

Larry Buis, father of Jason, told jurors said that before the fight his son was going camping on a first date before the fight and that his son has a good reputation in the community. He added that seeing Ponder and his son fight tore him up because he had been friends with Ponder for a long time.

Jurors had five options for charges on Buis, murder, manslaughter second degree, which would mean Buis killed Ponder with his hands, acted wantonly and did not have privilege to self protection, reckless homicide, which would mean Buis acted recklessly and did not have the privilege to self protection, second degree assault, which would mean Buis inflected injury upon Buis with his hands and did not have the privilege to self protection and fourth degree assault, which would mean Buis caused a physical injury and did not have the privilege to self protection.

During the defenses closing, they urged the jury to pay attention to the language of the charges and reminded them that all parts of the charge had to be met before they could find Buis guilty. He showed the video of the fight again to jurors and said that he seen a troublemaker, menacing, antagonizing, threatening behavior and aggressiveness from Ponder. The defense also pointed that Ponder had a long stretch of time to get help for his condition of heart disease, yet he got involved in the type of behavior such as getting upset and getting in a fight.

The prosecution pointed out that Jason Buis was the only one to throw a punch in the fight and that assault had triggered Ponder’s heart attack. They also pointed to the oddness of some witness that they had no told investigators about some key facts when first interviewed but revealed them at trial, saying it seemed like they were picking a side. They said the calling someone a “son of a b*****” was not a threat and that Jason Buis had “beat the s***” out of Ponder. He showed the video of the fight again and asked jurors to pay attention to each man body language and said that Jason had disregarded the safety of Ponder.

After four hours of deliberations the jury found Buis guilty of assault fourth degree.

Buis was released from custody as he already served more than the maximum time in jail for fourth degree assault.