Lee Purser spent most of the day Monday staring out a window in District Judge Tom Walker’s courtroom as prosecutors and defense attorneys presented evidence to the judge in the Lone Grove man’s non-jury, first-degree murder trial.

 


Lee Purser spent most of the day Monday staring out a window in District Judge Tom Walker’s courtroom as prosecutors and defense attorneys presented evidence to the judge in the Lone Grove man’s non-jury, first-degree murder trial.


District Attorney Craig Ladd and Assistant District Attorney Heather Cooper called five state’s witnesses to the stand Monday morning and entered photographs and reports, including DNA evidence, they believe prove that while the 27-year-old man does have a mental illness, he was rational when he murdered his mother, Pam, on June 17, 2007. Defense attorneys carried the evidence ball during the afternoon session, also calling five witnesses and entering evidence they hope will convince Walker their client is not guilty by reason of insanity.


State’s witnesses included OSBI Agent Renee Childress, who led the investigation into the murder, and Purser’s brother, Gene.


Childress testified Purser was rational and competent during interviews about his mother’s death, but “writings” including numerous pages titled “The Book of Lee,” did indicate some mental-health issues.


Childress also told Walker that Purser denied he had changed the clothing he had been wearing after his mother’s body was discovered. However, videotape evidence proved he had changed clothes and DNA evidence found on one of his shoes linked him to the murder, as did DNA evidence from the victim’s hands, which had sustained defensive wounds.


Gene Purser testified he had found his mother’s body after receiving telephone calls from his brother saying their mother wasn’t answering her phone or door. Purser’s brother said he found his mother’s car parked in the garage, the house dark and the family’s dogs and his sobbing toddler son, who was in his grandmother’s care, standing at the door. He discovered his mother’s body in her bedroom and immediately called for help.


He also talked about previous problems between his brother and mother, adding his brother held “grudges” against their mother.


Defenses witnesses included Purser’s father, Don, who told the judge his son had been diagnosed as being a paranoid schizophrenic. He said his son refused to stay on medication and described several years of disruptive and defiant behavior. The father said Purser blamed his parents for his problems and had also threatened his life, but a week before the murder he received a phone call from his son.


“He said he was ready to get some help,” Don Purser said, adding he called his ex-wife to share the news.


Just hours after the murder the next day, the father said he spoke with Childress, telling her “Lee is fragile.” But at the time, he said, he did not tell the agent about his son’s mental condition.


The defense star witness, psychologist Jeanne Russell, testified she had examined Purser and believed at the time of the slaying Purser “Didn’t know what he had done was wrong.” Russell said during an interview with the defendant, he told her he believed “God didn’t have a clue” .... He was suppose to kill his father and his mother, who was “A witch who had reversed the world and it would send all the saints to hell.”


Russell said Purser told her he would have set his mother’s house on fire but didn’t because his nephew was inside.


Under cross-examination, Russell admitted Purser’s description of the murder and his allegations that he had left his mother alive and “in God’s hands,” was vastly different from the violence he had committed. She also admitted her reports only reflected what questions Purser answered, but did not indicate those questions that he had ignored, nor did it include statements from others concerning her client’s behavior or the fact that even in his “writings” he never mentioned a belief that he was assisting God. And she confirmed that while she had testified in criminal cases more than 100 times, it was always as a defense witness.


The case is now being considered by Walker, who will render a verdict at 1:30 p.m. Monday.


Walker agreed to hear the non-jury trial in December just two weeks before Purser was supposed to be tried by a jury. Both the defense and the state motioned for the non-jury trial, which axed the case from the regular jury docket conducted earlier this month.


Purser remains held on a $2 million bond at the Carter County Detention Center, pending Walker’s decision.


Marsha Miller 221-6529