Murder suspects offer conflicting accounts

Published 6:00 am Monday, March 3, 2008

Day three of Michael Leggett’s murder trial featured conflictingtestimony from him and another defendant also accused in the Oct.11, 2006 death of Jewel Duane Douglas.

Both Leggett, 33, and Mark Culbertson, 32, took the standThursday to give their accounts of the events of the night of theattack. Culbertson, who was called as a prosecution witness, isscheduled to stand trial March 4.

Culbertson said that once they arrived at the residence sharedby Leggett and Douglas, Leggett went into Douglas’ trailer andconfronted him. Culbertson, who had never met Douglas, 36, beforethat night, had stayed with the car and finally he went to thetrailer door and told Leggett it was time to go.

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He said the men were still arguing and that Leggett wasthreatening Douglas with a knife. After that, he said he went backto the car.

He said the next time he saw the two men, Leggett had Douglas bythe arm and was coming out of the trailer with him. He said the menwere scuffling, and finally Douglas broke loose and ran toward histruck.

According to Culbertson’s testimony, then Leggett yelled “gethim,” so Culbertson reached into the car and grabbed a small tiretool and threw it at Douglas in an attempt to stop him.

“I thought maybe he was running for a gun,” he said. “People Iknow always kept guns in their trucks.”

Culbertson said when Douglas stumbled after being struck by thetire tool, Leggett jumped on him and it appeared he began strikinghim with something. He wasn’t able to see exactly what Leggett wasdoing, Culbertson said, because he was behind him with the light inhis eyes.

One of Culbertson’s statements given to Sheriff’s DepartmentInvestigator Johnny Hall said Leggett had gotten several kitchenknives to take with him before they left to go to the Douglas’trailer.

Culbertson also said Leggett he was making threats about gettinghis things back or harming Douglas. Culbertson told deputies thatLeggett was in a “hyperactive rage, swinging the knivesaround.”

Defense attorney Joe Fernald asked Culbertson about severalstatements he had made to authorities. Fernald pointed out thatevery statement became more detailed than the last over time.

Fernald pointed out that the important part of the statement isthat Culbertson initially threw the tire iron that Leggett isaccused of using to beat Douglas. The attorney asked Culbertson ifhis statements could have become more detailed as Douglas’ medicalcondition deteriorated.

“Could it be that you’re on the record hitting him in the head,and the man had died and you might have killed him?” Fernaldasked.

Culbertson denied that. When Fernald asked him why he wouldagree to testify when things he said could be incriminating, hesaid it was “the right thing to do.”

“I just figure it’s best to tell the truth,” Culbertsonsaid.

When Leggett took the stand, he said when they got to Douglas’residence, Culbertson did not immediately come into Douglas’trailer with him, but waited outside for a few moments. He said heand Douglas argued briefly.

“He didn’t tell me to leave,” said Leggett, who said he had goneto the residence to retrieve a wallet that Douglas had allegedlytaken. “He told me he didn’t have no wallet, and that I should callthe law, basically.”

According to Leggett’s statement, Culbertson came into thetrailer and stood there for part of the discussion, and had in hishand a four-way tire tool. He said Culbertson saw him and Douglascome to a friendly agreement.

“I said it don’t need to come to all this, Duane,” he said.”Tomorrow I’ll come back with my truck and trailer to get myclothes and furniture.”

Leggett said Douglas had gone to his truck to get Leggett’swallet while Leggett checked the washer and dryer for cleanclothes. He said he was in the trailer for about 30 seconds beforewalking out and finding Douglas running from Culbertson.

“I turned the corner and it was basically over with,” he said.”Duane was running and Mark was throwing something at him.”

He said at that point, Culbertson threw the small crowbar tiretool and struck Douglas in the back of the head. Leggett said hewent to within 5 feet of where Douglas was to check on him, butthat he did not touch him. He said he saw a car coming down thedriveway, so he panicked and jumped in the car with Culbertson andthey drove off.

Court recessed around 7:30 p.m. Thursday night and was toreconvene Friday morning. The jury was expected to get the casesometime Friday.