Lawyer: Murder defendant too scared to call 911 after killing friend

2013-02-06T12:25:00Z 2013-04-30T17:04:13Z Lawyer: Murder defendant too scared to call 911 after killing friendBy GREG TUTTLE The Billings Gazette

It didn't take long for a Billings police officer to suspect that Jeffery Todd Guy knew more than he was telling about the dead body in the alley.

Officer Mitch Hillier said he told Guy three times to stand back, and each time the man tried to move closer. Hillier described Guy's interest as "very odd" and "a little creepy."

Minutes earlier, at about 8:15 a.m. on March 20, 2011, Guy had called 911 and reported that he had found the body in the alley behind his house on Broadwater Avenue while taking out the trash. He was sure the man was dead, Guy told the dispatcher.

Hillier arrived a few minutes later, and after telling Guy to stand back several times directed him to return to his house, where officers would come shortly to take a statement.

"I'm from a law enforcement family, and I know how these things work," Hillier recalled Guy telling him.   

Guy left, walking through a gate in a fence a few yards away. As Hillier looked over the area, he noticed a large bloodstain several feet from the body and a black beer can also near the body. He noticed drag marks in the dirt and gravel leading across the alley toward a large trash bin just outside the same gate Guy had used to return to his house.

Lifting the top of the bin, Hillier saw an identical beer can inside. He then noticed that the drag marks and blood trail continued across Guy's yard and led to the back door of his house.

"I started to get concerned that Mr. Guy might be involved somehow," Hillier said.

Hillier was among the first witnesses to testify at Guy's trial for the murder of Scott "Frog" Maxson.

The trial began Tuesday with jury selection and continued Wednesday with opening statements from the prosecution and Guy's public defender.

Assistant Public Defender Christopher Abbott told the jury that Guy shot Maxson in self-defense when his longtime friend grabbed a sword off Maxson's wall and confronted him about his work as a drug informant years ago.

Guy was too scared to call 911 after the shooting, Abbott said, and made a series of poor decisions "in the heat of the moment" after the fatal shooting.

"Life doesn't allow do-overs in very many things, and this is a perfect example of that," Abbott said.

Prosecutors have a different account: Guy gunned down Maxson, then tried to cover up the killing by dragging the body to the alley behind his house and destroying evidence.

When that plan didn't work, Chief Deputy County Rod Souza told jurors during his opening statement, Guy fell back on a claim of self-defense, which Souza described as "Plan B."

"But the investigation and the evidence will demonstrate that both plans failed," Souza said.

Souza told jurors that Guy took elaborate steps to cover up the killing, including gathering shell casings and fired bullets that were later found burned in a wood stove.

"No physical evidence supports Guy's claim of self-defense," Souza told the jury.

Guy is charged with deliberate homicide and two counts of felony tampering. His trial before District Judge G. Todd Baugh is expected to last through next week.

Abbott indicated during his opening statement that Guy may testify "if he chooses." 

Hillier, who was the first officer to arrive at the scene, and a Billings firefighter who spoke briefly with Guy before the officer arrived were the first witnesses called to testify Wednesday.

But even before the witnesses took the stand, the prosecution played Guy's call to 911. That call was made more than five hours after Maxson was shot at least a dozen times inside Guy's house with a .45-caliber Mac 10 pistol.

Firefighter Todd Kinkead said he spoke with Guy for several minutes while they waited for a police officer to arrive. During the conversation, Guy made the comment that "it was a heck of a way to start a Sunday morning, taking his garbage out and finding a dead body," Kinkead told the jury.

Deputy County Attorney David Carter asked Kinkead what Guy said about having to shoot the man in self-defense.

"There was nothing said about that at all," Kinkead said. "He gave us the impression that he did not know the gentleman."

After seeing the drag marks and bloodstains leading to Guy's back door, Hillier said he walked onto Guy's property and noticed that several spots in the yard had been covered with fresh dirt and sawdust. As he approached the back door, he noticed bloodstains at the base of the door.

He walked back to the alley to tell other officers what he had found, then stood by at the back door as Sgt. James Gartner and Officer Nathan West went to Guy's front door. Hillier then joined the other officers inside Guy's house. 

Guy made no mention of having to shoot Maxson in self-defense, Hillier said. He appeared "a little nervous," Hillier said, but was cooperative and told the officers the only firearm he had was a 9mm pistol locked in a bedroom safe.

Hillier said he noticed several unusual items in Guy's living room, including a battle ax and two swords hanging on a wall. A wood stove was burning, making the house unusually warm, he said.

Detectives later found evidence that Guy had thrown spent shell casing and other items into the wood stove.

Guy agreed to go with the officers to the police station for more questioning.

As Hillier walked out of the house, he noticed a bullet hole in a front window. When he looked closer, Hillier said, he saw that the bullet had first passed through a couch in front of the window, blowing out a handful of white stuffing. 

The police detectives who questioned Guy and searched his house are expected to testify Thursday.  

Copyright 2015 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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