Eugene Man Found Not Guilty of Second-Degree Murder
COLE COUNTY - A Eugene man was found not guilty of second-degree murder after facing his second day in trial Tuesday. 22-year-old Drew Puckett was charged with the second-degree murder of 28-year-old Caleb Crabtree.
Testimony from the Boone County Medical Examiner confirmed Crabtree's cause of death was, in fact, a shotgun wound to the head. The medical examiner also told the jury toxicology reports showed alcohol and methamphetamine in the victim's system.
The families of both parties listened with the jury as several Cole County Sheriff's deputies recounted the events of the day of the shooting, September 2, 2011.
Deputy Brian Campbell responded to the scene and made initial contact with Puckett, describing him to the jury as "frazzled."
The jury was also able to listen to recorded interviews with the witness, the defendant's cousin Hannah Sauchier, and with Puckett himself from the day of the shooting.
Sauchier told investigators she remembered Puckett saying that Crabtree wouldn't bother them anymore.
Puckett was recorded while writing his voluntary statement, before he was arrested. In his statement he explained Crabtree pulled up to his house, also the home of his cousin Hannah, and started yelling.
Puckett said he had the gun, but initially only asked Crabtree to leave. That is when, according to Puckett, Crabtree grabbed the gun and threw it away, and punched Puckett in the head. Puckett retrieved his gun and shot Crabtree in self-defense, as the statement says.
Jurors heard Puckett explain the series of events on the recording, and as Puckett wrote, he said it was "hard to write without making it look like we're both the bad guys in this situation."
A sergeant from the sheriff's department helped review the evidence including Crabtree's motorcycle helmet, the gun used to shoot him, the shotgun shells, and phone records indicating contact amongst the parties and with law enforcement.
In closing arguemnts, the defense and prosecution debated who was the initial aggressor in the situation. It means the jury had to determine whose action began the violent encounter.
The prosecutor made the case that the incident was premeditated, that previous discussions of lethal force and firearms can lead one to infer the shooting was planned.
The final point of debate was a conversation, not confirmed by the Sheriff's Department, in which an unnamed deputy told Puckett and others it was legal to use deadly force in certain situations. In fact, the deputy is quoted as supposedly saying, "If he comes in, blow him right back out the door.
Cole County deputies denied the claim, and the identity of the deputy who made the remarks is unclear.