Closing arguments are expected to start Thursday in the second-degree murder trial of Rolla resident James Loughridge.
The state rested its case at 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday. Defense attorney Patrick Horsefield asked for a dismissal on the grounds that the state had not proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt, but Judge Tracy Storie denied the request, ruling that the state had provided a sufficient case on which the jury must make a determination.
After the state rested, Horsefield, who is defending Loughridge with Kris Crews, argued that the state had not proved the charge of unlawful use of a weapon beyond a reasonable doubt. Horsefield argued that the state's witness, Cory Archer, was unsure whether or not Loughridge held the gun the night his 21-year-old stepson, Jamie Guill, was shot in the head on Route F the night of Jan. 11, 2011.
Phelps County Prosecuting Attorney John Beger, however, argued that physical evidence established that Loughridge was holding the Ruger .22 rifle that is alleged to be the murder weapon. Beger also argued that a video statement clearly showed Archer saying that Loughridge was holding the rifle when it went off and and sent a bullet into Guill's head.
Horsefield also argued the state had failed to prove that Loughridge was intoxicated that night, in the sense of being substantially impaired. Horsefield referred to the testimony of Terry Keeney, who was with Loughridge that night, who testified that Loughridge was “okay.”
Beger, however, cited the testimony of Sean Dietz, the bartender at the Locker Room, who testified that Loughridge drank 11 12-ounce beers and a couple of shots of whisky while at the Locker Room with Guill and Archer.
Beger said it was up to the jury to decide if Loughridge was intoxicated or not.
Horsefield also argued that Archer had testified that Loughridge had not exhibited any anger or threatening behavior on the day of the shooting. Beger said he did not know if Loughridge was angry or not, but that pointing a loaded gun at someone's chest is in itself a threatening act.
Earlier in the day, Archer testified that he got sick on the way home while riding in Loughridge's 1997 Ford pickup. After Loughridge pulled over to the side of the road to let Archer get out and vomit, Archer tried to get back into the pickup, but was unable to because, he said, he had a “gun barrel against my chest.”
Archer said on the video statement that he “thought Doug (Loughridge) was joking around,” He said that Loughridge was holding the rifle against his chest. Under questioning by Beger, Archer said he didn't remember saying that, but Beger cited the video statement, which showed Archer making that statement, plus the Oct. 31, 2011 deposition in which Archer also made the statement.
Page 2 of 2 - After being informed of his rights by Storie, Loughridge chose not to testify on his own behalf.
The state rested its case after showing a video interview of Loughridge the night of the shooting. The interview was conducted by Amy Hawkins, then a detective with the Phelps County Sheriff's Department. In the interview, Loughridge said, “I'm to blame. I left a loaded gun in my truck and somebody messed with it and now they're dead.”
Although elsewhere in the interview Loughridge said, “I honestly don't know what happened,” he tells Hawkins later, “If you want to blame someone, blame me. I'm the one who had the gun in my truck.”
Storie and the attorneys spend the late afternoon working on the instructions to be given to the jury. The jury is expected to get the case on Thursday.