Puckett found not guilty

Had been charged with 2011 murder

Drew Puckett was found not guilty of second-degree murder charges Tuesday.

A six-man, six-woman Cole County jury deliberated about two hours and 45 minutes Tuesday afternoon before returning with the verdict.

A grand jury indicted Puckett, now 24, in December 2011, charging him with murder in the shotgun killing of Caleb J.J. Crabtree, 28.

Members of both families were in the courtroom when the verdict was announced.

There was no audible reaction and no outburst from either side, as court marshals and Sheriff Greg White asked all to remain seated until the jury left the courtroom and courthouse.

Both families left the Cole County Courthouse without talking to reporters.

Assistant Prosecutor Steve Kretzer on Tuesday night declined to speculate why the jury reached the not guilty verdict.

“We appreciate their time and the energy they took in serious considering this case,” he said.

Puckett did not testify during the trial.

If he had been found guilty of the felony murder charge, he could have been sentenced to life in prison, or to a specified term of at least 10 years, and not more than 30 years.

Crabtree was killed with one shot to the face, Dr. Eddie Adelstein of the Boone County Medical Examiner’s office testified Tuesday morning.

Adelstein also said that, at the time he died, Crabtree was legally intoxicated and also had used methamphetamine shortly before he died.

Puckett admitted to the killing from the beginning, telling a 911 dispatcher minutes after the shooting: “I just killed a guy — he showed up, wanting to fight me.”

Later that night, while being treated at Capital Region Medical Center, Puckett told Cole County Sheriff’s Lt. Wayne Kem: “I feel horrible for it.

“I can’t wait to go to church for confession.”

Kretzer urged the jury to find Puckett guilty, noting during closing argument Tuesday afternoon that the evidence showed planning “when (Puckett) goes outside the residence with the shotgun and waits almost 45 minutes for the victim to arrive.”

Puckett had moved into his cousin’s rented home on Missouri 17, south of Eugene and very near the Miller County line, after she had thrown Crabtree out of the house.

The cousin, Hannah Saucier, had been in a six-years or so relationship with Crabtree, and was the mother of two of his four children.

She testified Monday afternoon that Crabtree called her that fatal Friday — the start of Labor Day weekend — saying he was coming over to visit with his two daughters before we went to prison the following week.

Saucier told him not to come, but, she testified, he said he was coming anyway.

She said she then told Puckett that Crabtree was on the way.

Kretzer told jurors that Puckett had told Saucier to stay in the house, and he would take care of the situation.

Kretzer argued that jurors should see that as proof that Puckett planned to shoot Crabtree.

“He doesn’t call his brother, who got there quickly after the shooting,” Kretzer said during closing argument. “He doesn’t call the landlord, who lives several yards away.

“He doesn’t call the neighbor, law enforcement. Instead, the state believes he was laying in wait and wasn’t going to take it anymore.”

Puckett, Saucier and others had told sheriff’s deputies that Crabtree was threatening them.

And a couple of the deputies testified that the text-messages they’d been shown on cell phones could be understood as threatening.

Public Defender Jan King said during his closing argument that Puckett had a right to defend himself at his own home, and that Crabtree was killed in self-defense.

“The law clearly states that a person can use deadly force if he believes he’s in danger,” King told the jury. “The facts are, Caleb Crabtree assaulted Drew Puckett and was going to do it again.

“(Puckett) knew what he was doing, but he believed he had no choice.”

King acknowledged that, during an argument that preceded the shooting, Crabtree had taken the shotgun out of Puckett’s hands and thrown it toward a nearby garden.

But King urged jurors to reject Kretzer’s comment that Crabtree wasn’t trying to hurt Puckett.

Instead, King argued, Crabtree knew that Puckett had had brain surgery, and “clubbed Drew in the head — right where he knew the shunt was.”

Even after getting the shotgun back, King said, Puckett told Crabtree to leave — and only fired the gun when Crabtree advanced on Puckett another time.

“(Crabtree) wouldn’t have been shot if he had left,” King said, “and maybe not if he hadn’t placed Drew Puckett in fear of his life, by hammering on his ear where the shunt was.”

Posted at 6:05 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2013:

Drew Puckett was found not guilty of second-degree murder charges late this afternoon.

A six-man, six-woman jury deliberated about two hours and 45 minutes before returning with the verdict.

A grand jury indicted Puckett, now 24, in December 2011, charging him with murder for the Sept. 2, 2011, shotgun killing of Caleb Crabtree.

Members of both families were in the courtroom when the verdict was announced. There was no audible reaction and no outburst from either side, as court marshals and Sheriff Greg White asked all to remain seated until the jury left the courtroom and courthouse.

Both families left the Cole County Courthouse without talking to reporters.

Puckett did not testify during the trial.

But his attorney, public defender Jan King, argued that Crabtree was killed in self-defense.

Assistant Prosecutor Steve Kretzer told the jury the killing had been planned, as Crabtree went to his ex-girlfriend’s home on that Friday before Labor Day, saying he wanted to visit with his two daughters before going back to prison.

Previous coverage:

Puckett trial begins

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