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Will Weitzel be witness?

Shumway’s attorneys may ask the convicted killer to testify

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The defense team for accused murderer Brookes Colby Shumway argued Thursday to include witness testimony regarding his victim's state of mind to bolster their claim Shumway acted in self-defense.

In a coincidence, that witness is the victim's treating psychiatrist, convicted killer Dr. Robert Allen Weitzel.

Shumway, 16, is being tried as an adult in the murder of Christopher Ray, 14. Ray died Jan. 23 after being stabbed 39 times in the living room of his family's mobile home.

Prosecutors say Shumway somehow muffled Ray, then stabbed him in the head, neck, torso and legs. Shumway maintains he acted in self-defense.

Shumway allegedly told homicide detectives Ray failed to take his prescribed psychiatric medication, used to treat depression, on the night of the stabbing. A written account discovered in Shumway's jail cell echoes that statement.

But 3rd District Judge Roger Livingston ruled if the defense wants to make an issue of Ray's mental status, it would be required to bring in Ray's treating psychiatrist.

"You have to have the physician who made the diagnosis," Livingston said. He said the defense could not ask an expert witness to testify instead, because it did not give proper notice that it would be calling such a witness.

But defense attorney Randall Lund said it may be difficult to call Weitzel as a witness because of Weitzel's pending appeal on manslaughter and negligent homicide convictions in connection with the 1995 and 1996 deaths of five elderly patients under his care. Weitzel was convicted of those crimes July 10.

Lund did not indicate by press time Thursday whether he intended to call Weitzel. There have been no allegations of misconduct against Weitzel in connection with the Shumway case.

Homicide detective Keith Stephens testified Wednesday that Shumway's account of events surrounding the stabbing varied during his 90-minute interrogation with the teen.

Stephens testified Shumway initially said Ray was playing with a butcher knife, throwing it in the air and catching it. Shumway stated Ray approached him with the knife and began poking at him, at which time an altercation ensued.

"He gave a couple of versions of the story," Stephens said. "As the interview progressed, (Shumway) would add different sequences of events."

Stephens testified that in one account, Shumway said he pinned Ray face down. Still armed with the knife, Shumway said Ray may have "accidentally" stabbed himself in the back while striking at Shumway, Stephens said.

Shumway also told Stephens that Ray accidentally cut his own throat when he fell on the knife during their scuffle.

The notebook found in Shumway's jail cell offers another account.

"What made me blow up is from about third grade to now I've been picked on," Shumway wrote. "Like people would call me names and push me around and tell me what to do. And all this came out on Crise (sic)."

The notebook also included assertions Ray's mother and sister were involved in the altercation.

Lund grilled witnesses Wednesday about the quality of the homicide investigation. He asked detectives why they elected not to take blood-stained clothing from Ray's mother and sister as evidence, given Shumway's claim that they may have played a part in the crime.

"We're all kind of stuck with your judgment call at the (crime) scene, aren't we?" Lund asked Salt Lake County sheriff's detective Courtney Nelson. "And if a mistake is made . . . the defendant pays for that, doesn't he?"

Nelson said though the evidence at the scene could not exclude the possibility more than one person was involved in the attack, everything — the evidence and Shumway's own statements — pointed to Shumway as the sole suspect.

E-mail: jnii@desnews.com