Man accused of killing stepson

Testimony from a forensic pathologist's assistant and a Phelps County Sheriff's detective highlighted the first day of the second-degree murder trial of James D. Loughridge.

Loughridge, 44, is accused of killing his 21-year-old stepson, Jamie Guill, on Jan. 11, 2011, while Loughridge's 1997 Ford pickup was parked alongside Highway F near Phelps County Road 4110 just before 10 p.m.

In his opening statement to the jury, which is from Maries County, Phelps Country Prosecutor John Beger outlined the events of that afternoon and evening.

Beger said that Loughridge, Guill and a third man, Corey Archer, were celebrating Guill's new construction job at Fort Leonard Wood by drinking at The Locker Room in Rolla. On the way home, Archer later told law enforcement authorities he got sick and asked Lougridge, who was driving, to pull over to the side of the road so that he could throw up.

According to Beger's account, Loughridge pulled over and Archer went to the back of the pickup with Guill to throw up.

After Archer had recovered, he and Guill went to get back into the truck. Archer grabbed the hand grip and put his right foot in the open front passenger's door, but was unable to get in, because, he said, the barrel of a Ruger .22-250 bolt-action rifle was against his chest.

Guill told Archer to get into the truck, but Archer said he couldn't because of the rifle. Then, according to Archer, Guill grabbed the barrel of the rifle and twisted it. The gun then "went bang," said Archer, and the bullet struck Guill in the forehead, killing him.

Archer said Loughridge told him to get back into the truck, and Loughridge drove back to his house. He told Guill's mother, Sandy, that Jamie had been "left in a ditch" after being shot. He later called 9-1-1 and reported the shooting. He was later arrested.

In the defense opening statement, defense attorney Kris Crews said the Phelps County Sheriff's Department had given due consideration to Archer as a suspect, and suggested that Archer had either shot Guill, or that Guill had been shot when the gun went off accidently.

But when questioned by Beger, Sgt. Andy Davis of the Phelps County Sheriff's Department, the lead investigator of the case, disputed that theory, saying that the path of the bullet and the fact that the wound was contact or near-contact led him to believe that Loughridge had shot Guill with the Ruger, which was in the front seat of the truck.

Sean Parcells, a forensic pathologist's assistant who performed the autopsy on Guill, said that the trajectory of the bullet was front to back, right to left, and slightly downward, a trajectory consistent with the prosecution's assertion that Guill had been shot at close range with the muzzle slightly higher than the back of the rifle.
Defense attorney Patrick Horsefield tried to discredit that theory, getting Parcells to admit that he is not an expert in firearms or ballistics.

Sean Dietz, who served the Loughridge party at The Locker Room, testified that Loughridge drank 11 Bud Lights and two shots of whisky while at the bar. When Beger asked Dietz if Loughridge was intoxicated, Dietz said yes.

When Beger asked Dietz how he knew Loughridge was intoxicated, Dietz said that Loughridge's speech was "slurred."

Horsefield, in cross-examination, asked Dietz if Loughridge was "substantially impaired, mentally or physically," which Horsefield said was the definition of intoxicated. Dietz said he was not.

However, Beger, in redirect, asked Dietz if he would consider someone who points a loaded gun at someone else as being "substantially impaired." Dietz said he would.

Another witness, Terry Keeney, testified that he drank with the Loughridge party that evening and later got Loughridge to give him a ride home. Under cross-examination by Horsefield, Keeney said that Loughridge seemed "fine" when he left Keeney's house.
The jury also watched a 45-minute video reenactim
ent of the shooting as described by Archer. The trial is scheduled to resume at 9 a.m. Wednesday.