Debbie Lohr wears a picture of her dead son around her neck and hugs herself in the cold courtroom. This week, she's seen large photographs of her son's charred body. She's heard people say he was a drug dealer, an enforcer, a scary man. She saw the man accused of killing him, Marshall Perfect, cry on the stand when he spoke of shooting Jesse Lohr, 29, in a Moon Lake shed Jan. 18, 2008, then wrapping Lohr's body in a tarp, loading it into a pickup, dousing it all with gasoline and burning the body and truck in the woods.
"It's like I'm dead inside," Debbie Lohr said Thursday during a break on the last day of Perfect's murder trial. "I don't like this feeling."
She knows her son, a felon recently released from prison when he was killed, was flawed. "He was a thief," she said. But he didn't deserve this ending.
She wanted Perfect to pay for killing her son.
And he will.
After deliberating nearly four hours Thursday afternoon, a jury found Perfect, 39, guilty of second degree murder. He faces a maximum penalty of life in prison at his sentencing, which has not yet been scheduled.
Perfect kept his head forward, his face unemotional, as the verdict was read. His wife, Barbara Perfect, leaned forward in her seat, her face toward her husband, tears welling in her eyes.
"He is my soulmate," said Barbara Perfect, 34. "He's my other half. I am not whole without him."
At the time of the murder, Jesse Lohr was living with a drug-dealing girlfriend, Christine "Critter" Sharp, who testified that Perfect called her at 4 a.m. Jan. 18, 2008 wanting $420 worth of cocaine. She sent Lohr to drop off the drugs and get the money, including a $60 debt Perfect owed her. Perfect denied ordering drugs and said Lohr was only there to collect the $60. He said Lohr tried to rob him at gunpoint in his shed, so Perfect shot him. He said he burned the body because he was scared of retaliation from Sharp's motorcycle gang cohorts.
"He knows it wasn't the right thing to do," said Perfect's lawyer, Geoff Cox, in his closing statement, "but he did it because he feared for his life."
The day after the shooting, after burning Lohr's body and his truck in the woods, Perfect's shed, the scene of the shooting, also mysteriously caught fire. Perfect threw his bloody clothes away in the garbage, he testified, and he traded the shotgun he used to kill Lohr for a three-wheeler.
"Are those the actions of an innocent person?" Assistant State Attorney Mike Halkitis said to the jury in his closing statement. He said Perfect's story made no sense. If it was self-defense, why didn't he call authorities? If it was self-defense, why wasn't Lohr shot in the face or chest? Why was he shot in the back of the head? Why burn Lohr's body if he wasn't trying to destroy evidence? A melted gun was found near Lohr's waist. Halkitis said Lohr probably never pulled his gun out of his pants. He said Perfect's motive was to rob Lohr of his cocaine and money.
"You got a glimpse of a person who is divorced from decency," Halkitis said.
Perfect confessed the killing to several relatives and friends, which led to his arrest in May 2009, when some went to detectives with what they knew.
"He thought he could get away with it, but he was wrong," said the victim's brother, Edward Lohr. "And now he's going to pay for it."
Perfect's family and Lohr's family both sat quietly in the courtroom, every day, on opposite sides. Perfect has a 13-year-old son. Jesse Lohr had four children. Both families will never be the same. Debbie Lohr wants the man who killed her son to spend the rest of his life in prison. But it will not mean she is healed.
"There are no winners here," she said.
Erin Sullivan can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 869-6229.