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Captain’s murder trial now in the hands of the jury

Defense says prosecutors haven’t proved officer poisoned his wife

By FRANKLIN FISHER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: March 27, 2009

DAEGU, South Korea — A jury of seven Army officers at Camp Henry began weighing the fate Wednesday of Capt. Christopher Gray, who is accused of killing his wife with a lethal dose of over-the-counter medication then dumping her body north of town.

The jurors began deliberating their verdict Wednesday afternoon and were to resume Thursday morning after an overnight recess.

Gray, 38, has pleaded not guilty to premeditated murder, obstruction of justice, and conduct unbecoming an officer.

The body of his 27-year-old wife, Lea Gray, was found May 9 in a ditch, concealed with weeds and brush, in a wooded area not far from Camp Carroll in Waegwan, about 40 minutes north of Daegu. She was in the fetal position, wore no shoes or socks, and was decomposing and partially skeletonized.

She died of a toxic dose of diphenhydramine, an antihistamine, medical experts have testified.

Earlier Wednesday, the jury heard closing arguments from the prosecution and defense.

In the prosecution’s 14-minute closing argument, Capt. Brian Mathison portrayed Gray as fed up with his wife’s serial infidelity and other strains in their marriage.

On one occasion, Gray went to the Waegwan apartment of one of the men his wife had become involved with, Ibrahim Duranijo, and confronted her, Mathison said. She reported the confrontation to Army authorities, who the next day issued an order barring Gray from contact with his wife.

As a result, Gray had to move from the couple’s Camp George apartment to bachelor officer quarters at nearby Camp Walker.

Soon after, Gray began planning his wife’s murder, the prosecution said.

The evidence, said prosecutors, was a series of Internet searches made on Gray’s computer during March and April: "How to tie up person without leaving marks"; "restraint without leaving marks"; "tie up a person"; and "duct tape restraint."

Other searches included the terms: "strangle without leaving marks"; "torture without leaving marks."

On April 8, Gray went to the Camp Walker post exchange and bought items that he would need for the murder he was planning, according to the prosecution.

They included duct tape, a twin-pack enema kit, and over-the-counter medications, including one called Simply Sleep, which contains diphenhydramine.

On April 20, Gray killed his wife with a toxic dose of diphenhydramine, forced her body into a suitcase that had a retractable handle, wrestled the suitcase down the elevator and into his Nissan Maxima, brought his sleeping stepdaughter Bianca to the car, then drove to Waegwan and dumped his wife’s body, the prosecution told jurors.

Lea Gray’s left leg bore a linear impression "consistent with" being stuffed in a suitcase with a retractable handle, Mathison said.

"The evidence in this case is enough to believe, to determine — beyond a reasonable doubt — that Capt. Gray murdered Lea Gray," Mathison told the jurors.

In the defense’s closing argument, which lasted one hour, 20 minutes, civilian attorney Richard V. Stevens attacked the prosecution’s case as full of "holes" that the prosecution hoped jurors would "fill in" with assumptions.

"The investigation failed to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt," he told jurors.

Moreover, he contended there was no conclusive proof that Lea Gray had not left the apartment building using the stairs that were near the couple’s apartment. There was no proof that she was murdered; her death could have been a suicide, Stevens said.

He also attacked lab work done in the case, saying some of the methods had been inadequate, inconclusive, and were therefore untrustworthy. In addition, he said, no lab analyses had linked Gray to the murder.

"There wasn’t a fiber that convicted him, not a grain of soil," Stevens said. "And they can’t find anything that implicated Capt. Gray."

Stevens argued that investigators targeted Gray when they should have targeted Duranijo, who admitted on the witness stand that he and Lea Gray had a close relationship that had become contentious in the period just before her death.

In a rebuttal statement, prosecutor Mathison told jurors that Duranijo was investigated properly and that it became increasingly clear that Duranijo was not involved in Lea Gray’s murder.


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