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Staff photo by Abby Sewell
Defendant Roger Clark (standing) walks into a courtroom where defense attorney Jim Terrell (seated, left) and deputy district attorney Connie Standley (seated, right) prepare to make their closing statements in Clark's murder trial Tuesday.

Jury deliberations begin in Sandy Valley murder trial

BARSTOW - The defense attorney in the murder trial of a Sandy Valley man asked the judge to throw out the case just before making his closing statement on Wednesday.

"The witnesses themselves said that they lied - everyone in there has lied," defense attorney Jim Terrell said.

Terrell has spent the last month defending Roger Clark, a Sandy Valley man accused of killing Charles Gibson, also from Sandy Valley, a small desert town on the California-Nevada border, in May 2002. Terrell's motion to dismiss the case due to lack of evidence was denied, and jurors set out to sort fact from fiction Wednesday morning after arguments wrapped up in the murder trial.

Deputy District Attorney Connie Standley said in her closing statement that the evidence shows that Clark shot Gibson with a shotgun in the thigh and buttocks, then drove him away to a remote desert location and set the motor home on fire, leaving Gibson to burn alive inside. Clark believed Gibson was having an affair with his girlfriend Carrie Abrao, who was Gibson's neighbor, Standley said. Abrao testified that she saw Clark driving Gibson's trailer from the scene the night of the crime.

Terrell, however, said the prosecution's witnesses were unreliable and some of them may themselves be suspects in Gibson's death. Terrell said police pressured witnesses into giving the story they wanted to hear. Abrao, who at first told police she had seen nothing on the night of the crime, testified in court that she was high on methamphetamine every time police interviewed her, he said. Robert Price, another neighbor who appeared as a witness, was in custody awaiting trial on charges of receiving stolen property when he was called to testify in the Clark case. In court, Price refused to answer most questions about the night Gibson died, eventually invoking the Fifth Amendment, his right not to incriminate himself.

Another key witness, Bo Gritz, said in court that he misled police when he told them that Clark had confessed to him. Gritz said in court that he had offered Clark, who has serious health issues, as a decoy to keep Gibson's son from trying to take revenge on other suspects.

Standley said she was not overly concerned by the witnesses' changes in testimony.

"I was a little shocked by Mr. Gritz' turnaround," she said, but called his first statement to police "the most credible."

Gritz was trying to protect Clark, who was his friend, when he recanted the statement he had made to police, she said.
Terrell said evidence pointed to Price as the real culprit.
The defense had wanted to call Price's cellmate to testify that Price had confessed to him that he killed Gibson. Judge Mapes decided not to admit the testimony on the grounds that it was hearsay, defense investigator Chuck Maine said.

Both Standley and Terrell said Tuesday that they were optimistic about the outcome of the trial.

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