Jury weighs evidence in murder trial

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AUGUSTA (AP) – A Kennebec County jury began deliberations Thursday in the murder trial of an Augusta man accused of fatally beating and stabbing his 74-year-old mother-in-law during an argument about the proper way to start a snow blower.

While not disputing that David Grant, 56, killed Janet Hagerthy on Nov. 30, 2004, the defense said the self-employed carpenter was suffering from mental illness induced by heavy use of cocaine.

Jurors began to weigh the evidence after hearing closing arguments and receiving instructions from the judge.

During defense testimony Wednesday, a former Augusta patrolman testified that Grant called police a number of times in the weeks before the killing to report that children were running around on his garage roof, peeking in windows and whispering.

Donald Whitten said Grant told him on the evening of Nov. 21, 2004, that he was unable to sleep or go to the bathroom because imaginary children were at the window all the time.

“We went out back to look at sneaker prints in the dirt,” Whitten testified. “There were no prints.”

Whitten said he invited Grant to go to the emergency room to talk to someone about seeing things that weren’t there, and that Grant agreed.

After the killing, Grant drove around with the retired nurse’s body in his pickup truck before dumping the body near her Farmingdale home, the prosecution said.

Randolph Brown, a crisis worker who visited Grant’s home and did a psychological assessment, also testified that he was concerned about the defendant’s mental state.

“I thought I was seeing, perhaps, the onset of psychosis,” Brown said. “Kids on the roof, the fact that nobody else heard them, his slightly agitated demeanor and hyperactivity led me to come up with that diagnosis.”

Carlyle Voss, a psychiatrist who examined Grant at the request of the defense, said Grant revealed that he used cocaine heavily in the months before the killing.

Voss told jurors that Grant suffered from a cocaine-induced psychotic disorder at the time Hagerthy was killed and when he stabbed himself in the neck 10 hours later after he had driven his pickup truck into a ditch off Interstate 95 near Newport.

“He had no intent to harm her,” Voss said. “I think there was an altercation and he went ballistic and she died tragically.”

After the killing, Grant drove around with the retired nurse’s body in his pickup truck before dumping the body near her Farmingdale home, the prosecution said.

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