Defendant guilty even if he didnt pull trigger, state says

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 3, 2006

VIDALIA &8212; Whether Francis Joseph Loncar killed Richard Allen Cupstid last April will have little to do with whether he serves a life term for the crime, jurors were told Monday.

The trial, which started mid-afternoon Monday, will continue this morning at 9 a.m.

If a murder is committed while a robbery is being committed, First Assistant District Attorney Brad Burget told them during jury selection and then in his opening, all principles to the robbery are considered to be responsible.

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&8220;&8216;I didn&8217;t shoot him, I just robbed him&8217; doesn&8217;t matter,&8221; he said.

Cupstid, of Vidalia, was found near early in the morning on April 5, 2005, near the intersection of Rountree Road and U.S. 65/84. His tractor-trailer was parked on the shoulder nearby, and he was believed to have stopped to go to the Dodge store nearby.

He had been run over by a car and shot through the head with a .22-caliber rifle.

Still alive when found, he was flown to University Hospital in Jackson where he was pronounced dead.

Burget said the whole incident started as a premeditated robbery, carried out by Loncar.

When the yield turned out to be just $3, Burget said Short got mad, ran over Cupstid and returned to shoot him in the forehead.

Two eyewitnesses saw what they told Concordia Parish Sheriff&8217;s deputies was a silver Ford Mustang at the intersection just after 3 a.m. that morning. On their way home from work, Kenneth Baker testified he saw the car as he turned onto Rountree Road but saw nothing but Cupstid&8217;s body on his way back out to the Mobil store across nearby.

Baker and his girlfriend, Katrina Hudson, saw the car. Hudson testified two white men were in it, one with long hair and the other with short hair. They called 911 after spotting the body.

Deputies found a potential owner of a silver Ford Mustang in the person of Jason Short, and the state of the vehicle they found behind his mother&8217;s Concordia Park trailer led them to suspect he was a party to the crime.

Deputies testified the car was wet as though just washed with a strong smell of bleach. Clothes were smoldering in a grill nearby, they reported.

Derrick Carson, who is defending Loncar, deferred his opening statement and didn&8217;t question the facts of the crime.

As most of the physical evidence dealt with Short &8212; his car, his car&8217;s windshield wiper, his mother&8217;s trailer &8212; Carson&8217;s client didn&8217;t get his name called much Monday.

That&8217;s bound to change today, however, as Burget moves beyond logging physical evidence into the record and turns to the statements of friends and lovers of the defendants.

This list includes the girlfriends of both Loncar and Short, both of whom have pleaded to charges of accessory after the fact to second degree murder for their roles after the murder.

The jury, composed of 10 women and two men, is to decide only on guilt.

A life sentence is mandatory for a conviction.