A man who stabbed his fiancée to death wasn’t aware of what he was doing, a public defender said today.
Mickey David Beauchamp Wagstaff, who is charged with first-degree murder for the February 2009 stabbing of his fiancee in the back of her van, didn’t mean to kill, his attorney told jurors as the trial opened this morning.
“You have to be careful to not let your emotions replace your objective thinking about the case,” Public Defender Renee Rupp told jurors. “Is this murder or manslaughter? Is it second degree, first degree, or is it murder with special circumstances?”
Wagstaff, 27, could face life in prison without parole if he is convicted of first-degree murder with a sentence enhancement for sexual assault in the killing of Elizabeth Kellenbarger Amirian. Second-degree murder and manslaughter carry lesser sentences.
Wagstaff and the Amirian were stressed and fighting in the van on Feb. 10, 2009, the defender said. After Wagstaff punched Amirian in the face, the couple laid down in the back of the van and had consensual sex, she said.
Prosecutors alleged Wagstaff raped his fiancée after the fight. To read more about the allegations, .
Wagstaff stayed with Amirian in the van for the next two days, praying and reading from the book “The Hiding Place,” Rupp said. On Feb. 12, when a police officer knocked on the van window and asked Wagstaff to open the door, the defendant grabbed a hunting knife and stabbed Amirian 39 times.
Wagstaff had a “blank stare” on his face after the murder, stabbed himself in the lung with his knife and did not respond to officers after they used a tazer on him, Rupp said.
“There’s no question about cause of death, or who caused it,” Rupp told the jury. “We have to make sure ... the defendant is convicted of the right charge, and this is what we're here to do.”