Arguments Close; Murder Trial Goes to Jury Wednesday


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( – A jury will begin deliberation Wednesday morning in the murder trial of a 35-year-old Jamestown man.

Leron Lee Howard is on trial for murder and criminal conspiracy in the death of 18-year-old Abdi Ali Ahmed, whose body was discovered April 30, 2011 in a ditch near Spiritwood.

Both sides rested in the case and presented closing arguments Tuesday in Southeast District Court.

Howard took the stand in his own defense Tuesday and testified he hit Ahmed twice in the head during an altercation, but said it was 23-year-old co-defendant Janelle Cave who later stabbed him twice in the body. Cave had previously testified that Howard stabbed Ahmed on a gravel road where his body was discovered.

Earlier in the trial, a state medical examiner testified the head injury was the eventual cause of death, but the stab wounds likely accelerated his death.

In his closing arguments, defense attorney Steve Mottinger asked the jury to find Howard guilty on a lesser charge of manslaughter. h

“He is taking full responsibility for hitting this young man in the head twice and kicking him, and that’s what killed him,” Mottinger said. “He did not intentionally kill this man. He did not murder him.”

Howard testified he hit Ahmed during an argument between Cave and Ahmed. Howard said he thought the two were fighting about money Ahmed owed Cave for marijuana. When he felt Ahmed might strike Cave, Howard said he swung and hit Ahmed.

In his closing arguments, Stutsman County State’s Attorney Fritz Fremgen said Howard and Cave both want to distance themselves from the stabbing because that shows intent to harm Ahmed.

“They don’t want to say the sword was there,” Fremgen said. “They’re in deep trouble if they do.”

Both have testified that the other person brought a sword from Cave’s residence into the country before stabbing Ahmed with it.

In February, Cave was convicted of manslaughter and criminal conspiracy for her role in Ahmed’s death. She is currently appealing her 11-year prison sentence. She testified in Howard’s trial on Monday.

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