FORT EDWARD -- Matthew Slocum’s girlfriend was responsible for the killings for which he has been charged, Slocum’s defense lawyer told a Washington County jury Tuesday afternoon.
Washington County Public Defender Michael Mercure told the panel in his opening statement that Loretta Colegrove, and not Slocum, committed the murders for which Slocum is on trial.
Mercure said Slocum’s mother, Lisa Harrington, planned to kick Colegrove out of their White Creek home, and did not believe she was fit to be a good mother to Slocum’s child.
She has drug and alcohol problems, and Harrington and her husband had been caring for the infant son Slocum and Colegrove had together, Mercure said.
Slocum was sleeping at the time of the first two shootings, but awoke to see his girlfriend shoot the third and final victim that morning, Mercure told the eight-man, four-woman jury.
Police had “tunnel vision” and focused on Slocum while ignoring evidence that implicated Colegrove, he said. She gave police a variety of versions of events in the days that followed Slocum’s arrest, according to Mercure.
“The evidence will show you that Loretta’s stories conflicted with each other, they are at odds with each other and not consistent with the evidence in the case,” Mercure said.
Colegrove has not been charged and has been treated as a witness. She is expected to testify during the trial
Slocum’s confession to police was false and was illegally obtained because Mercure had informed police and prosecutors that he represented him and was to be present when he was questioned.
“There will be no evidence at this trial that Matthew Slocum committed these murders,” Mercure said.
His 20-minute opening statement came after Washington County District Attorney Kevin Kortright spent about 15 minutes telling the jury that Slocum killed his mother, stepfather and stepbrother, and that Colegrove witnessed the final shooting.
“This is a case about Matthew Slocum taking a 12-gauge shotgun, pointing it at the head of his mother and shooting her,” he said, adding that Slocum then shot the other two victims as well.
The jury will hear that Slocum had threatened to set fire to his mother’s home hours before the killing, after he argued with his mother, Kortright said.
He did not identify a potential motive, but told the jury they will hear from a variety of witnesses, including a DNA expert, arson investigators and a blood-spatter analyst.
Slocum, wearing a dark suit and sporting a new, short haircut, did not speak during the proceeding and had no apparent reaction to the lawyers’ comments.
Testimony in the case is to start Wednesday morning. A State Police investigator to whom Slocum allegedly confessed is expected to be the first witness.
Before opening statements, Washington County Judge Kelly McKeighan turned down a request by the defense to postpone the trial. Mercure had asked for a postponement after he was given 2,700 pages of documents Friday.
He said there had not been enough time to review the documents before jury selection began, and they might yield additional witnesses, some of them out-of-state in Massachusetts.
McKeighan, though, said the defense had five days to review the material.
Slocum, 24, of White Creek, faces three counts of second-degree murder and a charge of first-degree arson in the July 13 shooting deaths of his 44-year-old mother, her husband, Dan Harrington, 41, and Dan Harrington’s son, 24-year-old Joshua O’Brien. Slocum and Colegrove lived in the Turnpike Road home with the three victims.
He is accused of shooting the three to death before setting fire to their Turnpike Road home in Eagle Bridge.
The trial is expected to take up to two weeks, with prosecutors submitting a witness list of 35 or so people.
Slocum could face up to 100 years to life in state prison if convicted of the murder and arson counts, and he also faces seven lesser charges related to the theft of his mother’s car and O’Brien’s cellphone and tampering with evidence.
He is being held in Washington County Jail without bail.