A man who has been charged with allegedly murdering his stepson in January of 2011 is set to stand trial starting this coming week.
James D. Loughridge is charged with second-degree murder, unlawful use of a weapon and unlawful use of a loaded weapon by an intoxicated person following the death of his stepson, Jamie M. Guill, who was 21 years old at the time.
Guill was shot in the head with a rifle and left in a ditch on the south side of State Route F near Phelps County Road 4110 on Jan. 11, 2011, after 9 p.m.
Jury selection is set to take place in Maries County Monday afternoon, but the jurors from Maries County who are chosen will be transported to the Phelps County Courthouse to hear evidence in the trial. Selection of the jury was moved to Maries County in an attempt to find jurors without any preconceptions about the case.
The trial was initially scheduled for February and later moved to June but was delayed in June after it appeared there would not be enough jurors and alternates.
According to Maries County Clerk Mark Buschman, 70 potential jurors were called and 50 showed up. “They got down to about 20 and felt like there just wasn't going to be enough,” he said.
The goal is to choose from a larger pool of potential jurors this time.
Depending on how long jury selection takes, opening arguments could begin late Monday afternoon or evening but more likely Tuesday morning.
The trial is scheduled to take about a week, with no more than about three to four days of hearing evidence expected.
During the pre-trial phase of Loughridge's court hearings, he chose to waive his right to be sentenced by jurors, so sentencing will be done by 25th Judicial Circuit Court Judge Tracy L. Storie, who will oversee the trial.
Because second-degree murder is a Class A felony, and the two other charges against Loughridge are Class D felonies, if Loughridge is convicted of all charges, he could face up to 38 years in prison.
The Phelps County prosecutor's office intends to tell jurors this was a murder, but Loughridge's attorneys, Kristopher D. Crews and Patrick Horsefield, plan to argue it was an accident. Loughridge told investigators he does not remember how Guill was shot.
According to court documents, Guill, Loughridge and Corey Archer, a witness to the incident, had spent the evening of Jan. 11, 2011, leading up to Guill's death drinking.
According to Archer's testimony at Loughridge's preliminary hearing more than a year ago, the trio of intoxicated men were traveling to Loughridge's home when Archer became ill and asked Loughridge to stop the truck so he could vomit.
Court documents state that Loughridge pointed the rifle at Guill and Archer and when Guill grabbed the barrel of the gun, Loughridge allegedly pulled the trigger, shooting Guill in the head. Loughridge and Archer then apparently drove to Loughridge's residence.
Page 2 of 2 - No one knows Loughridge's blood alcohol content at the time of the shooting, but they do know he returned to his home and continued drinking before being taken to the Phelps County Sheriff's Department to talk to investigators. According to court documents, Loughridge's BAC was .115 percent about five hours after the shooting.
Loughridge is not in police custody as he posted bond, which was reduced from $500,000 to $100,000, several months ago.