Originally Published: December 22, 2002 10 a.m.
PRESCOTT – Homer Roseberry's life is now in the hands of the 12 people who believe he is guilty of first-degree murder.
A jury Thursday afternoon found the 58-year-old Indiana man guilty of first-degree murder, transporting marijuana for sale and conspiring to transport marijuana for sale.
The charges stemmed from the October 2000 shooting death of 45-year-old Fred Fottler. According to court documents, Roseberry allegedly conspired to kill Fottler so he could steal more than 1,000 pounds of marijuana.
Authorities believed that during the theft, Roseberry shot Fottler in the back of his head three times. A motorist discovered his body along Highway 93 near Wikieup. Investigators reportedly used fingerprint records to identify him, and further investigation revealed that the bullets came from a gun that Roseberry owned.
Yavapai County Attorney Steve Young reminded the jury that Roseberry admitted to drug trafficking when he testified Wednesday.
"He readily admits that he drove his motorhome through Yavapai County with 1,000 of marijuana and that marijuana was for sale," Young said. "And while transporting that marijuana for sale Fred Fottler was shot in the back of the head three times. Homer Roseberry does not want to admit he was the shooter … but we know he was."
Roseberry's defense attorney, Dave Stoller, asked how the jury could conclude that his client was the shooter. He asked them to look carefully at the evidence. He said the state has no reliable eyewitnesses and he pointed out a lack of physical evidence. He said the gun had none of Roseberry's DNA on it, there was no blood evidence, no powder burns on his hands and no other physical evidence linking him to the gun.
"There's reason to doubt," he said, although he did concede that Roseberry's testimony likely would result in his conviction. "I can't quarrel with those facts."
The guilty verdict came several hours after deliberations began. Since the state is seeking the death penalty in this case, the trial now will move into the new sentencing phase of the process.
This summer, the United States Supreme Court deemed that the former death penalty sentencing statute was unconstitutional. Until now, judges decided if a convicted felon deserved the death penalty. Now, the same jury that decides guilt or innocence must also determine if the case comprises sufficient aggravating factors to justify capital punishment. The state must prove that at least one of about 10 aggravating factors, such as pecuniary gain, exist in the crime. The defense attorneys may also present mitigating evidence.
The next phase of the trial is to begin today.
Contact C. Murphy Hébert at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 445-8179, ext. 2037.