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Lawyer says Crenshaw didn’t plan killings

Mon., July 12, 2010, 1:25 p.m.

The attorney representing accused double-killer Justin W. Crenshaw told a jury today that there is no question that his client killed two victims in February 2008: It’s just that Crenshaw’s state of mind was such that he couldn’t have planned the killing.

Defense attorney Chris Bugbee said his 22-year-old client can’t explain why or even how he killed 18-year-old Sarah A. Clark and 20-year-old Tanner E. Pehl on Feb. 28, 2008.

“Mr. Crenshaw is responsible for the deaths of Sarah Clark and Tanner Pehl. This is not about who caused their deaths. It is to what level of responsibility he should be held,” Bugbee said. “What was his state of mind when these crimes were committed?”

As expected, Bugbee said he will bring witnesses claiming that Crenshaw may suffer from alcohol idiosyncratic intoxication in which persons sometimes exhibit bizarre, and sometimes violent, behavior after ingesting even small amounts of alcohol.

Bugbee said he understand what jurors might think being asked to confirm a condition they’ve probably never heard of, along with the added problem of Crenshaw knowing he had problems yet he chose to drink anyway.

“Don’t dismiss this condition because you haven’t heard of it,” he told the jury. “The issue is, how did this condition affect his ability to think?”

Jack Driscoll, the chief criminal deputy prosecutor, asked the jury to hold Crenshaw responsible for the heinous crime: Clark’s head was nearly severed and Pehl was found with a broadsword stuck through his chest.

Driscoll told the jury about lists of fingerprints at the crime scene, blood on clothes and other DNA evidence linking Crenshaw to the crime.

“I will ask you to convict Justin Crenshaw with two counts of murder in the first degree with aggravating circumstances,” Driscoll said.

But Bugbee’s defense will make efforts by Driscoll almost moot.

Investigators found pictures of Pehl’s family members taken off the walls and placed upside down in the home at East 512 Elm St.

“It is in fact bizarre,” Bugbee said, “Which is consistent with the condition I’m talking about. This is as senseless case. There is no way to justify these deaths.”

Crenshaw told detectives that he had been with Pehl and Clark on the night of the incident, but asked to be driven home. He denied the killings but told his aunt that investigators would want his clothes. Those bloody clothes were later discovered in his aunt’s garage and DNA testing showed it came from both Clark and Pehl, Driscoll said in court.

Bugbee said the condition is often associated with amnesia, or the inability to remember what happened.

Crenshaw’s “last memory was sitting on the couch drinking with Tanner Pehl who was playing the guitar,” Bugbee said. “His next memory is waking up the next morning with pain in his hand. He sees the bodies.”

But Bugbee left out his explanation for why the house was intentionally set on fire. Investigators found household cleaners and other flammable liquids piled on the living room floor.

But the source of the fire was determined to be from the kitchen, where someone left pizza boxes on top a stove with three burners activated and an oven set for 450 degrees.

“This is not an insanity defense where we are asking you to acquit Mr. Crenshaw of these crimes,” Bugbee said. “There are other options … that don’t show intent.”

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