SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - A Caddo Parish jury has found Eric Dale Mickelson guilty of first degree murder in the death and dismemberment of 87-year-old Charles Martin in July 2007.
It took the jury about an hour to reach the verdict. Mickelson now faces life in prison without parole or the death penalty. Prosecutors are pushing for death. The penalty phase begins Thursday morning.
During closing arguments Wednesday afternoon the D.A.'s office argued that parts of a recorded conversation with police proved Mickelson planned the murder ahead of time because he said his then girlfriend needed him to wring the victims neck so he wouldn't turn her in for stealing.
The defense used a part of the same recording when Mickelson says the crime was not premeditated to make a case that he did not plan out the crime. They hoped to get a lesser sentence of manslaughter.
There were several emotional moments in the courtroom Wednesday. The victim's granddaughter had to leave the room when graphic pictures of the victim's body were shown. Mickelson's mother also showed intense grief when the verdict was read, and she covered her face with her hands.
The trial began on Saturday, with the prosecution telling the jury that Mickelson intended to kill 87-year-old Charles Martin in order to keep himself and his girlfriend from being reported to police, and to steal more money to feed their drug habits.
Mickelson's defense has argued that he didn't mean to do it, and that Martin died in the struggle. Defense attorney Mario Guadamud contends that "by this time, metal illness and cocaine consumed every aspect of his life."
During the trial, jurors also heard jailhouse recordings of Mickelson admitting to killing Martin to his mother, as well as lengthy recordings of Mickelson's conversations with detectives, detailing the crime and leading police to his scattered body parts.
Despite the apparent confession. Mickelson continued to avoid taking responsibility in those recordings. But he makes clear he wants to take all of the blame so long as his girlfriend Beverly Susan Arthur goes free.
That is not an option however, as Arthur also faces first degree murder charges. This fact has been a major part of the defense's strategy, turning much of the incriminating evidence away from Mickelson and pointing it toward Arthur.
No trial date has been set for Arthur.