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Murder or self-defense? Pasco jury hears of drug buy gone bad

Marshall Perfect looks across the courtroom before the start of testimony Tuesday in his trial for the 2008 slaying of Jesse Lohr. Perfect told family he shot Lohr in self-defense.

BRENDAN FITTERER | Times

Marshall Perfect looks across the courtroom before the start of testimony Tuesday in his trial for the 2008 slaying of Jesse Lohr. Perfect told family he shot Lohr in self-defense.

Christine Sharp was one of the last people to see Jesse Lohr alive. Back then, in 2008, he was freshly out of prison and unemployed. "Enjoying life," Sharp told the courtroom Tuesday at the trial of Marshall Perfect, 39, who is accused of shooting Lohr in the back of the head and burning his body and pickup in the woods of Moon Lake.

Sharp, a 38-year-old woman with curly red hair, glasses and the nickname of Critter, financially supported Lohr, her boyfriend. He was 29 when he died.

"I was selling drugs," she said on the stand.

"You were a drug dealer," assistant state attorney Chris Sprowls said.

Sharp nodded.

She said she got a call from Perfect at about 4 a.m. on Jan. 18, 2008. He wanted to buy three 8-balls of cocaine; one 8-ball is about 3.5 grams and $140. Sharp told the courtroom she knew Perfect because she spent several years in a physical relationship with his brother.

Sharp said Lohr offered to drop off the drugs and collect the money at Perfect's house in Moon Lake. She reminded him that Perfect already owed her $60 from a previous buy. Lohr left in her pickup.

"He never came back," Sharp said.

According to testimony from Perfect's brother, John "Pee Wee" Perfect Jr., the drug deal went sour in a shed on Perfect's property.

"He said he shot this fellow in the back of the head," John Perfect told the courtroom. He said his brother called his house at about 5 a.m. Jan. 18 and asked for a ride home from the mud pit — a swampy area in the woods of Moon Lake where people often mud bog in trucks and four-wheelers. That was where Lohr's burned body and Sharp's pickup were later found.

"He said he burned the truck out there," John Perfect said on the stand.

"And he burned the body, too?" assistant state attorney Mike Halkitis asked.

"Yeah," John Perfect said.

Marshall Perfect told his brother that he saw Lohr pulling a gun from his waistband, so he shot Lohr in the head. He said it was self-defense. John Perfect was angry with his brother.

"He brought me into something that he shouldn't have," John Perfect said. "I told him he should call 911."

Marshall Perfect didn't respond.

"He just didn't say nothing," John Perfect said. "He said he was scared."

"Did he tell you what he was afraid of?" Halkitis asked.

"Nah," John Perfect said. "He just said he was afraid."

In the days after the shooting, Marshall Perfect also confessed to his sister, sister-in-law, his sister's boyfriend, his cousin and his father, according to testimony from those individuals Tuesday.

The day of the shooting, Perfect's father said he stopped by his son's house. Marshall Perfect brought his father into the shed. He said, "I thought he was pulling a gun so I reached over here and pulled out my shotgun and blew his head off," John Perfect Sr. told the court. He said he saw two blood-soaked planks of wood outside the shed. Marshall Perfect had just hosted a hog roast at his house the previous day.

"I thought it was from when they killed and butchered the hog," Perfect Sr. said, "but it wasn't."

"Did Marshall tell you how he got blood on the planks?" Halkitis asked.

"From loading him into the truck," Perfect Sr. said about dragging Lohr's body into the pickup.

Still, nearly a year and a half passed between the shooting and Marshall Perfect's arrest in May 2009.

Along the way, the shotgun disappeared and the shed burned down.

Marshall Perfect told investigators he was repairing a scooter when a spark set the shed on fire. Prosecutors, however, hinted the blaze was arson. They did say they recovered a piece of shotgun-blasted piece of wood from the shed.

Marshall Perfect's lawyer, Geoff Cox, said his client plans to take the stand.

"If he said it was self-defense, it was self-defense," Marshall Perfect's mother, Rose Bass, said during a court break.

Marshall Perfect has been in the Pasco jail since his arrest on May 1, 2009. He is charged with second-degree murder. If he is convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.

"I just want justice to be served," said Debbie Lohr, the victim's mother. She said she hasn't been able to mourn her son. She hopes a verdict will bring her closure.

"We'll never know the truth," brother Edward Lohr said during a courtroom break. His brother Jesse "lived his life the way he thought fit," he said. He said Perfect and Lohr both did drugs and sold drugs.

"They put themselves in that situation," he said.

Still, he wants Perfect in prison.

"You can't just go out and kill somebody," Edward Lohr said.

Erin Sullivan can be reached at esullivan@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6229.

Murder or self-defense? Pasco jury hears of drug buy gone bad 09/27/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 27, 2011 9:41pm]

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