Testimony begins in Drew Puckett murder trial

A Cole County jury heard opening statements and testimony Monday in a Eugene man's murder trial.

Drew Puckett is charged with second degree murder in the September 2, 2011 shooting death of Caleb Crabtree. Puckett's defense team contends Puckett shot Crabtree out of self-defense during an argument, while prosecutors say the situation was not dire enough to warrant the use of deadly force.

The jury heard extended testimony from Crabtree's ex-girlfriend, Hannah Saucier, who was an eyewitness to the shooting. Saucier said Puckett, who is her cousin, was living with her at the time. She said Crabtree had assaulted her in the past and was not paying child support for their two daughters, who were 2 years old and 7 months old at the time, respectively. Saucier said Crabtree threatened her, Puckett and Puckett's brothers several times prior to the shooting, and she filed for an ex parte order against him. Neither she nor any of the Pucketts attended the hearing, so the order was dismissed.

She said on the day of the confrontation, Crabtree called her to say he was coming over and did not care who else was there. She said she told Puckett about the call and Puckett met him in her front yard with a shotgun. She said during the confrontation, after making sure her children were safe, she threw a pan full of water on Crabtree and ordered him to leave. Crabtree took Puckett's shotgun and threw it on the ground, after which she picked it up and ordered Crabtree to leave. Puckett then took the shotgun back. Saucier contends Crabtree continued to threaten Puckett, at which point Puckett shot and killed him.

Testimony conflicted over advice a Cole County deputy gave Saucier and Puckett prior to the shooting. Greg Henson, a detective with the Cole County Sheriff's Department, told the court he had discussed Crabtree's threats with Saucier and the Pucketts that summer. He said he had told them that response times depend on whichever deputy is closest. Eugene is an unincorporated town near the Cole/Miller county line and has no police department of its own. On the day of the shooting, deputies took about 20 minutes to reach the scene. Henson said he had discussed self-defense laws with the Pucketts but did not go into the detail about the use of deadly force. But Wyatt Puckett, the defendant's brother, insisted Henson had told him "off the record" that if it appeared deadly force was necessary, one should shoot once, to kill, and not to shoot further "because it would look bad." Henson and Saucier both insist Henson said no such thing.

Also during Monday's proceedings, jurors listened to a tape of the 911 call Drew Puckett made immediately after the shooting. In the recording, a distressed Puckett told the operator he had killed Crabtree and could be heard saying, "I said I would do it." Saucier could be heard screaming in the background.