Marshall Perfect doesn't know why he chose to light a dead man's body on fire.
"I was very disturbed at that time," Perfect, 39, told the courtroom as he testified Wednesday in his own defense.
Perfect is accused of murdering Jesse Lohr, a 29-year-old acquaintance, on Jan. 18, 2008, and burning his body and pickup at a mud pit in Moon Lake.
"Sir, I deposited a body where many people go all the time," Perfect told Assistant State Attorney Mike Halkitis. "I don't know why I put it there."
Lohr's girlfriend, Christine "Critter" Sharp, testified Tuesday that Lohr went to Perfect's Moon Lake residence at about 4 a.m. to sell him $420 worth of cocaine and collect a $60 debt.
Perfect told the court that wasn't true. He said Lohr, a felon recently out of prison, came over only to collect the $60. He said he thought Sharp was coming and was surprised to see this man he said he barely knew.
"He says, 'You got the money?' " Perfect said. "I said, 'Yeah, wait here. I'll be right back.' "
Perfect said he began walking to his shed where he had his money. Perfect doesn't believe in banks. He said he had $800 in a Marlboro cigarette tin.
But Lohr didn't stay in the driveway. Lohr followed him, Perfect said.
He said Lohr pulled a gun on him.
"Give me all the money," Lohr demanded, according to Perfect.
"What did you say?" Perfect's lawyer, Geoff Cox, asked.
"I said, 'You won't get away with this,' " Perfect said. "And he said, 'You won't be telling anybody.' "
"What did you understand that to mean?" Cox said.
"That he was going to kill me," Perfect said.
He said he "started shaking violently" and dropped the cover to the tin. Both Lohr and Perfect looked down at the ground.
"I looked up before him and I lunged at him," Perfect said.
The two wrestled and tumbled, Perfect said. He said Lohr dropped the gun but was going for it again. Perfect said he happened to have a sawed-off shotgun in the shed from recently killing a hog that wandered onto his property.
"So I grabbed my shotgun. I didn't even aim it. He had the gun and he was turning around," Perfect testified, "and I pulled the trigger."
"What happened?" Cox said.
"Nothing," Perfect said.
"What did Jesse Lohr do?" Cox said.
"Dropped," said Perfect, who began sniffling, his eyes teary. "He just dropped straight down."
The shot hit Lohr in the back of the head, killing him.
"I dropped my shotgun and I got up. I opened the door and I walked out," Perfect said. He went outside and threw up, he said.
He said Sharp called him to ask why Lohr hadn't come back to her house.
"Did something happen?" she asked Perfect, according to his testimony. He said no, nothing happened. She said if something did, if Lohr was hurt, that she would get her biker friends to retaliate, Perfect said.
"I was scared for my life," Perfect testified. "These boys aren't nothing to play with, these bikers. I ain't about to mess with them."
So he said he didn't call the authorities for help. He wrapped Lohr's body in a tarp, loaded it onto Lohr's pickup, drove it into the woods, doused it with gasoline from a can that happened to be in the bed of his truck — Perfect said he didn't put it there — and lit it.
A medical examiner testified Wednesday that Lohr's body was burned so badly his legs were gone, his intestines and bones visible. A handgun was found near Lohr's waist. It was melted too badly for fingerprints or DNA samples, a forensic expert testified.
Perfect called for help from his brother, John "Pee Wee" Perfect Jr., who eventually went to detectives with what he knew. This led to Perfect's arrest in May 2009. He is charged with second-degree murder and, if convicted, faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.
"I keep going over and over what happened in the shed that night," Perfect said. "I keep thinking if there was something I could have done differently. There wasn't."
He is claiming he shot Lohr in self-defense. Halkitis asked Perfect why he didn't tell detectives the truth.
Why, the prosecutor wondered, didn't Perfect think, "If I tell them what happened, then I won't be arrested because I didn't do anything wrong?"
"Well I did, sir," Perfect said. "I burned poor Jesse's body."
The trial, which began Monday, is expected to finish today.
Erin Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6229.