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Defense rests in Hereford case; jury to start working

Aug 1, 2013 - By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

Defense attorneys for a Lander man accused of rape and second-degree murder made their final presentation of evidence Thursday in Lander District Court.

John Thomas Hereford, 25, of Lander, is charged in the Sept. 11 shooting death of Travis Armajo, 32, of Lander, at a house Hereford was renting in the 900 block of North Second Street in Lander. Hereford also faces charges alleging he confined Armajo's fiancee and sexually assaulted her on the same day.

Malice

Under Wyoming law, a killing must involve purpose and malice to be considered second-degree murder. Hereford's lawyer Bob Horn on Thursday sought to demonstrate a lack of malice in the shooting.

Testifying in court, Hereford's fiancee, Michelle Harris, said there she saw no arguments or animosity between Hereford and Armajo on the night of Armajo's death. She said her fiance was kind

to Armajo and his girlfriend, allowing them to wash clothes at his house and loaning them money when they were homeless.

Fremont County deputy attorney Patrick LeBrun pointed out that Harris said she was intoxicated enough at the time of the shooting to allegedly sleep through three gunshots.

"You have no idea what happened between John Hereford, Travis Armajo and (Armajo's girlfriend) after you went to bed, do you?" LeBrun asked.

During testimony, Hereford's mother Mary Hereford said her son and Armajo were friends and cousins. She said she never saw animosity, ill will or hostility towards Armajo from John Hereford or anyone else in her family.

Fremont County Prosecuting Attorney Michael Bennett asked if she recalled telling Fremont County Sheriff's detective Sgt. John Zerga that all of her other sons had already beat up Armajo. Mary Hereford said she did not recall that statement.

'Killing kin'

When John Hereford's friend Clinton Zachary Wagon took the stand, Horn tried to diminish the significance of a text message John Hereford sent the morning of the shooting. The message read, "Drinking and killing kin."

Wagon said he regularly communicated with John Hereford on the phone and through text messages, and he did not think John Hereford meant by the message that John Hereford was actually drinking and killing his cousin. He did agree with Bennett that it was an "incredible coincidence" that John Hereford had sent the message the same night Armajo died.

Timeline

While examining Lander police detective Randy Lutterman, Horn stated Armajo must have died between 1:36 a.m. -- when John Hereford talked to friend Delray Perry on the phone -- and 2 a.m. Sept. 11.

Perry, also a friend of Armajo's, testified on Thursday that he had spoken with John Hereford at 1:36 a.m. Sept. 11. Perry said he heard Armajo's laughter in the background at that time.

Armajo's fiancee -- the alleged rape victim in the case --Q94;said John Hereford arrived at her house to attack her at 12:55 a.m. on Sept. 11. She said the assault lasted 60-90 minutes.

An autopsy placed Armajo's time of death between 12 a.m. and 2 a.m. Sept. 11.

Lutterman agreed with the timeline, and with the fact that the alleged rape victim's testimony put John Hereford at her home during that timeframe.

On cross examination, Bennett pointed out that Perry did not answer three calls from John Hereford before during the early morning hours of Sept. 11, though Perry did eventually answer a call from John Hereford at 1:36 a.m.

Perry reportedly called John Hereford again after 3 a.m.

"You knew he was in trouble," Bennett said. "It was because of what he told you."

Perry said he was worried John Hereford was considering suicide.

"He asked me, 'Do you love me?'" Perry said. "He was like 'I love you,' I was like, 'I love you,' (and) he was like 'I miss you.'"

'Garbage in'

While examining Lutterman, Horn also attempted to discredit the Lander Police Department's investigation into Armajo's death.

Horn identified three people who he said put "garbage in" to the case. His list included a Lander law enforcement officer, Fremont County Coroner Ed McAuslan, and the pathologist who performed Armajo's autopsy.

According to Lutterman, the sexual assault victim made statements to the listed law enforcement officer that were inconsistent with what she told Lutterman.

In addition, Horn said the coroner's and pathologist's reports state John Hereford became angry at Armajo because John Hereford's fiancee performed oral sex on Armajo on Sept. 11. Lutterman agreed no evidence in the investigation supported that claim.

The defense rested its case at 11 a.m. on Thursday. The trial will proceed to jury instructions at 2 p.m. followed by closing arguments. The case will go to the jury for deliberation on Thursday afternoon.

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