A judge Tuesday ordered two suspects in the beating death of a Lawrence man to stand trial - on reduced charges.
Douglas County District Judge Robert Fairchild ruled that Jerod Buffalohead, 36, and Shanna Friday, 37, be tried on one count each of reckless second-degree murder. The two are suspected in the Feb. 2 death of Jerry Deshazer, 62, at Deshazer's mobile home in southeastern Lawrence.
The two had been charged with intentional second-degree murder. At the conclusion of a preliminary hearing, Amy McGowan, a chief assistant Douglas County district attorney, asked the judge to order a trial for felony murder, a stiffer charge. McGowan said the defendants had tried to rob Deshazer.
But Kay Huff, Friday's attorney, said there was no true indication that robbery was a motive.
"It looks like this is a group of people sitting around drinking, and drinking too much, who make some provocative remarks and a fight ensues," she said.
The judge said evidence supported the lesser second-degree murder charges.
"I really don't think there's any evidence that they intended to rob him before they beat him," Fairchild said.
The judge ordered the two back in court April 3, when it's anticipated he'll set a trial date.
A reckless second-degree murder conviction carries a prison term of about nine to 41 years, compared with 12 to 54 years for intentional second-degree murder and 20 years to life for felony murder.
On Monday, an eyewitness, Jarvis Jones, testified he had been drinking at Deshazer's home and woke up from a drunken sleep to see Buffalohead punching Deshazer. But defense attorneys questioned how trustworthy Jones was because he'd been drinking and he didn't help the injured Deshazer.
"The court can take into consideration the credibility of that witness," said Kip Elliot, Buffalohead's attorney.
Detectives testified that Buffalohead told them he hit Deshazer to defend himself and Friday.
Dr. Donald Pojman, deputy Douglas County coroner, testified Tuesday that Deshazer died from blood loss because of blunt trauma to the head that peeled back skin on the right side of his forehead.
Deshazer also suffered other facial injuries. Deshazer's health problems, along with his 0.11 percent blood-alcohol content and his use of a pain medication could have increased his blood loss, Pojman said.
Pojman also said the scene included trails of blood throughout the house, which made it a confusing scene.
"There's a lot of questions on the scene that I can't put together and say this is a nice, easy thing that happened," he said.