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Beer-bottle attacker to trial; 911 call admissible

Nov 1, 2013 - By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

A Shoshoni man accused of killing his girlfriend's husband is headed to trial after passing the final deadline for a plea agreement.

At a hearing Thursday, lawyers for the state and the defendant, Shey Bruce, 45, said no plea agreements were on the table or in the works. Thursday was the last opportunity to reach a deal. District Court Judge for Fremont County Norman E. Young wanted to make sure Bruce understood.

"After I get up and leave, either we'll have a trial on Nov. 18, or you'll plead guilty as charged," he said.

"I understand," Bruce replied.

The trial date was set for Nov. 18.

Recording admitted

On Wednesday, Young also ruled a crucial piece of evidence for the prosecution, a recorded 911 call, is admissible. On the tape, the deceased man, Charles Laster, says Bruce struck him in the head with a beer bottle the night before he died.

At a hearing Oct. 25, defense attorney Devon Petersen argued that the tape was hearsay and that playing it in court would violate Bruce's Sixth Amendment right to confront witnesses against him because Laster would not be able to take the stand, Petersen said.

The public defender added that if the court thought part of the recording was admissible, it could keep other portions out.

Fremont County deputy attorney Patrick LeBrun contended several exceptions to the hearsay rule applied to the 911 call. Statements in the recording also were not testimony, the prosecutor said, so the Sixth Amendment did not apply.

Young agreed the tape was admissible on the points of law the lawyers discussed and denied Petersen's motion to keep part of it out. Lawyers for the defendant will be able to object to the recording on other grounds at the trial.

Evidence about Bruce striking Laster on the head with a bottle is important to both sides of the case, because prosecutors think the blow killed Laster.

May 14 attack

Prosecutors allege Bruce struck both Laster and Lavena Sue Laster in the head with a beer bottle a little before 11 p.m. May 14 at Charles Laster's residence at 115 Main St., Shoshoni.

The next morning, Lavena Laster found her husband lying dead on the floor of his home. An autopsy found the cause of death to be bleeding between the skull and brain caused by blunt-force trauma to the head.

Bruce faces a second-degree murder charge and one count of misdemeanor domestic violence in relation to the death of Charles Laster, 65, and for domestic violence battery against Lavena Laster.

The maximum penalty for the murder charge is life in prison and a $10,000 fine, and the misdemeanor carries a maximum sentence of six months in prison and a $750 fine.

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