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VERDICT – Not Guilty of Murder

On January 11, 2011, Doug Loughridge took his stepson, Jamie Guill (21), and Jamie's best friend, Corey Archer, out to a local bar to celebrate Jamie's new job. Doug worked as a farmhand and carried a small caliber rifle with him in his pickup for varmint control. On the way home from the celebration, Corey, who was riding in the middle of the single cab pickup, started feeling sick from all the alcohol he had consumed and asked Doug to pull over. Jamie got out of the truck to let Corey out so he could get sick. After vomiting in the ditch, Corey attempted to get back in the pickup, but said he wasn't able to get in because the barrel of the rifle was in his chest. Jamie reached around Corey, grabbed the barrel of the gun, and jerked it towards him discharging the rifle. The bullet struck Jamie in the head killing him instantly.

The Prosecuting Attorney for the State of Missouri initially filed four felony charges against Doug arising out of the accidental shooting. The first charge was Unlawful Use of a Weapon by Exhibiting a Weapon in an Angry or Threatening manner. The second charge was Unlawful Use of a Weapon by Handling a Gun While Intoxicated in a Negligent Manner. The third charge filed, alleged that Doug was guilty of Armed Criminal Action. The final charge filed alleged that Doug was guilty of murder because Jamie had been killed during the commission of a felony.

Mr. Loughridge hired Patrick J. Horsefield and Kristopher D. Crews to represent him on the felony charges. Mr. Horsefield and Mr. Crews immediately filed a motion to dismiss the charge of Armed Criminal Action because Missouri Law was clear that this charge was not a valid charge based on the facts of the case. The Prosecuting Attorney then amended the charges and did not include the count for Armed Criminal Action.

Mr. Horsefield and Mr. Crews represented Mr. Loughridge at jury trial that began on September 10, 2012. During the trial, Mr. Horsefield and Mr. Crews showed that the investigation by police detectives was treated as a murder from the very beginning rather than the accidental shooting the facts showed this was. On cross examination of the lead detective, Mr. Horsefield adduced evidence that only eight days after the lab results showed that Doug had no gunshot residue on his hands, the lead detective called the lab and instructed them not to test for any DNA on the trigger of the rifle. Mr. Crews argued in closing that he did so because he knew from the lack of gunshot residue that Doug was not holding the gun and believed that Corey's DNA would be on the trigger.

The Prosecuting Attorney also called an expert witness to testify that the angle of the trajectory of the bullet in Jamie's skull was consistent with Doug holding the gun at the time it was fired. However, on cross examination by Mr. Horsefield, that same expert conceded that the bullet wound was a "contact wound" meaning the barrel of the gun was touching the skin when it was discharged which would have resulted in "blowback" of blood and tissue from the point of entrance. Furthermore, Mr. Horsefield adduced testimony from the expert that since there was no exit wound, there would not be any blood or tissue beyond the point where Jamie was standing when he was shot. The expert then confirmed from a photograph shown to him by Mr. Horsefield clearly showed blood and tissue was found near the locking mechanism of the passenger door that was open at the time the gun discharged. Finally, the expert agreed there was no blood or tissue found inside the cab of the truck.

Based on the evidence and testimony, Mr. Crews argued in closing that since there was no question that Doug was sitting behind the driver's seat at the time the gun went off, combined with the fact that the only blowback of blood or tissue was found on the far end of the passenger door, and the expert's concession that there was no doubt that this was a contact wound, there was no possible way Doug could have been holding the gun when it discharged killing Jamie.

Therefore, since Doug could not have been handling the gun, he could not be guilty of Unlawful Use of a Weapon or Murder. On September 13, 2012 after five and a half hours of deliberation, the Jury acquitted Doug of Murder and also acquitted him of one of the counts of Unlawful Use of a Weapon.

Disclaimer: Past results afford no guarantee of future results. Every case is different and must be judged on its own merits.

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