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Murder trial begins in Golden Valley shooting
Philip J. Martin
Defendant: 'I can't believe he was stupid enough to walk onto my property.'
10/8/2013 12:30:00 PM
By Doug McMurdo
KINGMAN - A jury heard a dying man's last words Monday when the first-degree murder trial began for Golden Valley resident Philip John Martin.
That Martin killed Steven Jeffery Schwartz on Oct. 18, 2012 is not in dispute. Martin, 61, calmly walked up to a Mohave County Sheriff's deputy on the road in front of his home that day and told him he shot Schwartz, his neighbor.
Prosecutor James Schoppmann framed the case around gun rights in his opening statement. Martin, he said, faced no threat and went "too far" in shooting a man he considered a trespasser. Martin had posted no trespassing signs, but he also was known as a man who resented people who passed by his property on Elgin Road.
Schoppmann told jurors Martin was angry that people drove on Elgin Road, an unpaved and by all accounts poorly constructed road that is owned by Mohave County and therefore public.
He would place debris on the road to force them to turn around before they arrived at his property.
On the day he died, Schwartz stopped his Jeep in front of the debris pile and cleared the road with his hands.
He was about 40 feet from Martin's front door when Martin fired a single 12-guage double-ought buckshot shell and hit Schwartz. All nine pellets struck him and six of them passed through his torso.
Schoppmann told jurors Schwartz was unarmed when he walked up Martin's driveway. His arms were down.
When Deputy Aaron DeVries arrived first on the scene, Schwartz was on his side on the ground, bleeding profusely.
"He was gasping for air," said DeVries, the prosecution's first witness. "He was in critical condition."
Schoppmann played an audio recording of deputies' imploring Schwartz to hang on.
"Stay with me, buddy, hold on to me," they could be heard saying,
Schwartz, in obvious stress, could be heard telling the deputies his neighbor, Phil, shot him. When asked why, Schwartz's said, "Because I was walking up his driveway."
Those were the last words he ever said.
Photographs shared with the jury showed devastating wounds to Schwartz's abdomen. He died shortly afterward at Kingman Regional Medical Center.
DeVries also recorded spontaneous comments Martin made.
Martin told one of his relatives at another nearby address to call 911 and returned to the scene and admitted to DeVries that he shot Schwartz.
DeVries said Martin was calm and matter-of-fact when he told him what happened.
He said he verbally warned Schwartz to turn around and fired a warning shot. Other witnesses, however, are expected to testify they heard only one shot. Nobody heard the purported verbal warning.
"He kept coming up my property, so I shot him," is what Martin reportedly told DeVries.
Schoppmann told jurors Martin was indifferent to his neighbor's death:
"He told a deputy, 'I can't believe he was stupid enough to walk onto my property.'"
Martin's defense attorney deferred giving an opening statement.
The trial continues today.
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