JONESBORO — While the state argued Tuesday that William Wasmund murdered Jeffery Spicer in September 2018, the defense said Spicer effectively pulled the trigger himself.
Tuesday started Wasmund’s trial, in which the state is accusing him of first-degree murder and aggravated discharge of a firearm in the 2018 death of Jeffery Spicer. Spicer was found dead on Wasmund’s property, as the result of an apparent gunshot wound. After investigating the scene, officers found that a 12-gauge shotgun had been rigged with a rope to fire when someone opened the doors to Wasmund’s shed.
Wasmund's defense attorney, Thomas Mansfield, said in his opening statement to the jury that his client’s property in rural Union County had been burglarized several times, and that he had taken to setting booby traps to catch any further burglary attempts.
Mansfield argued that in Illinois, a person is justified in the use of deadly force in order to “prevent a forcible felony” on their property. By setting a trap for a burglar, Mansfield said, Wasmund was within his rights.
“We believe that Jeffery Spicer performed the acts that caused his own death,” Mansfield said.
Mansfield said Spicer pulled onto Wasmund’s property in the early hours of the morning, and walked past a cable crossing the driveway with a "do not trespass" sign. He took a hammer and pried a lock off the shed, Mansfield said, and took the nails securing the door shut and looked past a “caution, do not enter” sign posted on the door.
James Jason Stegle was driving home after playing nine holes of golf Sept. 16, 2018, when he noticed what he thought was a person working on his truck in the driveway of Wasmund’s home. When he got closer, Stegle noticed it was Spicer's body.
“The body was laying there when I got out,” he said to Special Prosecutor Matt Goetten during testimony Tuesday, describing the scene he came upon before he called police.
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Crime scene photos published during the presentation of the state’s evidence showed high weeds to the north of Spicer’s 1999 black Chevy Silverado. A big shade tree sits to the south. Spicer could be seen wearing camouflage shorts and black cowboy boots. His blood-stained white T-shirt had been cut open by emergency responders.
Union County Sheriff's Deputy Josh Schildknecht testified that he was called to the scene at about 11:30 a.m. that day. He recalled driving up to the burned-out house with a grown-up yard. He said he found a trail of blood that led from the shed west to where Spicer’s body was found.
Illinois State Police Crime Scene Investigator Jason Craddock took the stand for the prosecution. He described the shed at the back of Wasmund’s property as a typical wood storage shed. But inside, he said, there was a small round table, and on it sat a vice, and in that vice, a single-shot, 12-gauge shotgun aimed chest-high at the door. There was a quarter-inch braided nylon rope that was tied around the trigger of the shotgun, which ran back through an eye-screw, and at a slight angle up to another eye screw at the top of the northern shed door, where it was tied off. Inside the gun was one spent buckshot shell.
The jury was actually taken to view the shed; neither the media nor the public were permitted to view the building, which had been taken from the property as evidence.
Much of Mansfield’s cross-examination of the state’s witnesses attempted to establish why he believed Spicer was on the property — to steal.
He revisited the tools found on Spicer’s body: a small socket set and the hammer found nearby, covered in blood. He also brought up two glass pipes found in his truck — he asked Craddock to confirm that they were typically used to smoke meth; the investigator said they were. He also wanted to hear again from Craddock that there was a large black flashlight found near Spicer's body.
The jury was dismissed early Tuesday — the state planned to show video interviews with Wasmund, but Goetten said he was concerned about a portion of one of the interviews he thought could be prejudicial for the jury. He and Mansfield were asked to take the afternoon to review the tape and come up with a solution for Wednesday, when the trial will resume at 9 a.m.