Jury begins deliberations in Portland murder trial


PORTLAND (AP) – A Portland mortgage broker charged with murdering a friend after a night out on the town says he shot the man in self-defense and then suffered “a nervous breakdown” that led him to hide the body.

Steven Clark’s testimony continued into a second day Friday, the fifth day of his trial in the slaying of Robert Wagner, 28, of Gray, last Feb. 15.

Closing arguments are expected on Monday. Jurors could come back with a conviction of murder or manslaughter, or with an acquittal.

Clark, 29, testified Thursday that he grabbed a .40-caliber handgun and fired twice when Wagner lunged at him with a knife after the two had returned to Clark’s home after hours of drinking that began at a Portland strip club on the night of Valentine’s Day.

“I panicked,” Clark testified. “I had a nervous breakdown. I sat on the couch and tried to figure out logically what I should do.”

Sobbing, he told jurors that he decided to find his brother “to help me hide Rob’s body.”

In conflicting testimony earlier in the trial, the defendant’s father said his son told him that the shooting was accidental.

Vincent Clark quoted his son as saying he and Wagner were passing the gun back and forth when it discharged, wounding Wagner, and that he then fired another shot to put the victim out of his misery.

Wagner’s body was found in a shallow grave on property owned by the elder Clark in Baldwin. Steven Clark testified that despite their friendship, he and Wagner sometimes got into fistfights when they were drinking.

On the night of the slaying, after the two drank beer and consumed hallucinogenic mushrooms at Clark’s house, Wagner was upset because his wife had not returned from a visit to her family in Russia, the defendant testified.

“I told him not to worry about his wife because she was a mail-order bride,” Clark said. “That sent him back into a rage.”

Clark said he ordered Wagner to leave the house, but he returned and at first seemed calm. But Clark said his friend grabbed a kitchen knife, held it to Clark’s head and demanded a ride home.

“I said, ‘OK, OK, OK, I’ll give you a ride,”‘ Clark testified. As Wagner turned to leave, Clark said he shoved him to the ground and grabbed a handgun he had nearby.

The defendant said that when Wagner got up, ignored an order to drop the knife and lunged at him, Clark shot him in self-defense.

“I fired the gun twice in his direction. Rob fell,” he said.