Was it a father-and-son murder plot, as the prosecutor maintains, or a clumsy attempt at intimidation?
Gerald “Mitch” Mitchell and his son, Gerald R. Mitchell, are accused of conspiring to rob a stranger of his drugs.
Authorities said the pair planned to conceal the crime by slitting the victim’s throat.
But Spokane County sheriff’s deputies, alerted by an informer, caught the Mitchells as they were leading the intended victim, James Davis, out of his motel room.
Mitch Mitchell, 55, was armed with a butcher knife.
The younger Mitchell, 30, escaped. He surrendered four days later.
During their trial in Superior Court, the defendants said they didn’t harm Davis. They just scared him.
Both men said they were doing a favor for Michelle Baxter, 25, a mother of four and occasional prostitute.
Baxter, the men said, was being hassled by Davis, her alleged drug connection.
“We just went there to tell the guy to leave her alone,” Mitch Mitchell testified.
That night, May 23, Baxter led the Mitchells to Davis’ room at the Ranch Motel, S1609 Lewis.
Following closing arguments by lawyers, the jury began its deliberations late Tuesday. That task is to resume this morning.
Deputy Prosecutor Dannette Allen was forced to go to trial without a victim, because Davis recently died of a drug overdose.
Instead, Allen relied heavily on the testimony of the informer, Baxter’s former boyfriend, Ken Haugen.
Davis’ statements to detectives could not be presented to the jury because his death made cross-examination impossible.
That left the prosecution with only his “excited utterance” at the time of the incident: “They were trying to kill me.”
In her closing argument, Allen said Davis would have certainly been killed if not for Haugen’s timely call.
Haugen said he heard the trio plotting the robbery-murder earlier that night and called the Sheriff’s department.
But defense attorneys Terence Ryan and John Rodgers questioned whether a crime occurred.
“Nobody got robbed. Nobody got their throat slit,” Ryan told the jury.
Davis wasn’t forced from his room at knifepoint and there was no sign of a struggle inside, Ryan added.
Haugen has a motive to lie, Rodgers argued, since he admits to disliking the younger Mitchell, the father of Baxter’s children.
In their testimony, the defendants denied striking or stabbing Davis. They said they were taking Davis outside to make sure he couldn’t grab a gun and shoot them before they left.
The Mitchells are each charged with conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and first-degree robbery.
Baxter, who also faces the conspiracy charges, has agreed to plead guilty in exchange for a reduced sentence, authorities said.