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Putnam jury deliberates in murder trial

OTTAWA, Ohio - Jurors began deliberating yesterday in a case the Putnam County prosecutor described as a cold-blooded, carefully calculated, execution-style killing of “little Chuckie Breckler.”

By 6:15 p.m., the jury had adjourned for the day. It is to resume at 8:30 this morning.

The 15-year-old Dupont boy was found shot to death at his sister's house early May 9 by his mother's boyfriend, who planned to wake him up and take him to school.

Nearly three months later, sheriff's deputies arrested the victim's former brother-in-law, Marvin Martin II, 32, of Continental and charged him in the murder.

Prosecutors contend Mr. Martin had a grudge against Charles that began at his wedding reception after his 1999 marriage to Brenda Breckler. The couple had a daughter but divorced less than two years later.

“Marvin Martin, Jr., nearly pulled off the perfect crime,” Prosecutor Kurt Sahloff told the jury during closing arguments yesterday. He said after walking from Continental to Dupont while it was still dark on May 9, Mr. Martin walked into Jennifer Plummer's house and shot the sleeping boy without a struggle.

“The only thing he left behind were the bullet fragments in Chuckie's brain,” Mr. Sahloff said.

Mr. Martin walked home, leaving the 22-caliber rifle he'd bought the previous December in the woods along with the gloves he had been wearing. Five days later, sheriff's deputies who had been scouring the area for clues found the evidence and collected footprints in the dirt that matched Mr. Martin's tennis shoes.

While Mr. Sahloff told the jury the evidence against Mr. Martin was unshakable, defense attorney Bill Kluge focused on the testimony of Dr. Diane Barnett, a pathologist who conducted the autopsy on Charles Breckler and concluded the teen killed himself. He suggested her testimony was all the reasonable doubt the jury needed to acquit his client.

“I guess I could say `Dr. Barnett' and sit down,” Mr. Kluge said at the start of his 45-minute closing argument. “That is the pivotal issue in this case. What possible, conceivable bias or motive would Dr. Barnett have to come in here and tell you this was a suicide? She is the state's witness. She testifies routinely for the state. She has no interest in this case.”

Dr. Barnett, a deputy coroner in Lucas County, testified last week that her opinion “to a reasonable degree of medical certainty” was that the death was a suicide. She said because the gun was upside down when fired, a killer would have had to straddle the victim on the couch to fire at that angle.

Mr. Sahloff countered those statements, telling the jury Mr. Martin easily could have stood behind the victim's head and fired down at him. He said that was the most likely scenario in light of statements Mr. Martin reportedly made about wanting to shoot Charles between the eyes.

He said Dr. Barnett's theory was not based on common sense. “Where did the gun come from and where did it go?” Mr. Sahloff asked. “Dr. Scala-Barnett didn't go to the crime scene. She didn't hear all the evidence. She didn't hear all of the testimony.”

Mr. Kluge pointed to an unexplained lapse between the time that Ron Wannemacher found Charles and the time he notified the victim's mother, Linda. Suggesting that Mr. Wannemacher may have removed the gun, Mr. Kluge said he was confused by the fact that Mr. Wannemacher did not call 911 but first went to Mrs. Breckler's house. “What's the first thing you do? You call for help,” Mr. Kluge said. “The phone was right there by Chuckie's head.”

He pointed out that the victim had been drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana before his death, a combination that might have left him depressed and suicidal.

And Mr. Kluge poked fun at testimony several sheriff's deputies gave concerning the stories Mr. Martin told them about how a clone of himself committed the crimes. “Send in the clones,” Mr. Kluge said in jest. “What if it wasn't clones? What if it was KGB agents or CIA agents or aliens from outer space and he saw the crime through their eyes?”

Mr. Kluge said any statements Mr. Martin gave about how his clone committed the murder came straight from sheriff's investigators' mouths. He said deputies visited Mr. Martin repeatedly after May 9, telling him details about young Breckler's death and even driving him and his father to the spot where the gun and gloves were found.

“The bottom line is, all the stuff [Mr. Martin] was throwing at them was all the stuff they had already thrown at him,” he said.

Mr. Sahloff cautioned the jury to disregard “the distractions” being thrown at them by the defense, such as the implications that investigators either did not find or did not test trace evidence from the crime scene linking Mr. Martin to the shooting.

Mr. Martin faces the death penalty if convicted of aggravated murder. He also is charged with aggravated menacing in connection with a Dec. 26, 2000, shooting outside Linda Breckler's home. Prosecutors contend Mr. Martin used the same gun in both incidents.

The jury is being sequestered at an area hotel until deliberations are completed.

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