PLACERVILLE (CBS13) – In the opening day of the first-degree murder trial of a former Placerville school janitor, the defense attorney admitted on Wednesday that his client shot the school’s beloved principal.
“The facts are ugly in this case, very, very ugly,” defense attorney David Cramer said in his opening statements in the trail of John Luebbers, 45. “Yes, Mr. Luebbers shot and killed Sam LaCara. He killed him.”
But Cramer said the shooting on Feb. 2, 2011 at Louisiana Schnell School was in the heat of passion, not premeditated. He’s hoping the jury will go for a manslaughter conviction instead of first-degree murder.
“An acquittal is a huge long shot,” Cramer said. “I’m looking for manslaughter. It’s hard to get an acquittal when you admit in your opening that your client killed someone.”
The prosecution outlined how Luebbers and LaCara went from golfing Sunday to Luebbers shooting LaCara on Wednesday, and argued that it was premeditated because Luebbers was upset about how LaCara and other administrators were going about hiring a new night custodian.
Prosecutor Joe Alexander called his first witness, Dawn Cooper, LaCara’s secretary, who saw Luebbers shoot LaCara. LaCara, according to prosecution was shot three times with a .357 magnum, the last bullet striking him in the back as LaCara, 50, was on the ground trying to escape the bullets.
Cooper described Luebbers calling LaCara’s work and cell phones repeatedly in the half hour leading up to shooting after LaCara had sent him home for the day to cool off. The prosecution also entered a hand-written note from LaCara in which he mentions the angry phone exchanges with Luebbers.
Alexander said his portion of the trial could last two to three days and there could be a verdict next week.