State: Convict without weapon

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 24, 2006

VIDALIA &8212; Assistant District Attorney Brad Burget hasn&8217;t found a murder weapon yet, but he&8217;s still asking a Concordia Parish jury to return a guilty verdict.

Burget gave opening statements and called several witnesses Tuesday in the second day of the Jason Short murder trial. Short, and Joe Loncar, were arrested last year in connection with the April 2005 death of Richard Allan Cupstid of Vidalia.

Loncar was found guilty last month. The murder weapon was discussed at Loncar&8217;s trial, but Burget argued then that it wasn&8217;t necessary evidence.

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&8220;I&8217;ll tell you right now the murder weapon has not been recovered,&8221; Burget told the jury. &8220;Mr. Short has lied to the police on several occasions.&8221;

Burget called seven witnesses Tuesday after a day and a half of jury selection.

Defense attorney Rodney Messina asked jurors to listen to the evidence before making a decision.

&8220;You can disregard the opening statements, because that&8217;s just what the attorneys anticipate,&8221; Messina said. &8220;I need for you 12 to listen, and I&8217;ll let you judge.&8221;

The trial began with the two witnesses accounts of the beginning of the night. Witnesses getting off of work around 3 a.m. said they saw a Mustang parked on the road where the body was found dead.

The witness account revealed the car was seen parked on the road running, the first time he passed on his way home. When he returned the second time to go to the store, the car was gone but a lifeless body was lying face down on the side of the road.

The crime was then reported at a near by gas station to authorities. Once authorities arrived and the scene was secure, the police began looking for a Mustang.

The Mustang, found behind Short&8217;s house, had damage to the windshield and appeared to have just been washed, Concordia Parish Sheriff&8217;s Department Sgt. Todd Ainsworth said.

&8220;I noticed the silver Mustang and it appeared a large object had hit it,&8221; he said. &8220;It appeared the vehicle had been washed and the smell of lather and Clorox was coming from around the vehicle.&8221;

Short was inside the house and said he had been asleep since 10 the night before and had let two friends borrow the car.

Ainsworth recovered a piece of a windshield wiper at the spot of the incident, which perfectly matched the broken windshield on the Mustang.

A barbecue pit was also taken as evidence that appeared to have burned clothes in it, Ainsworth said.

The trial will resume Wednesday at 1 p.m.

Short faces charges of second-degree murder. Short and Loncar allegedly robbed, shot and ran over Cupstid near the intersection of U.S. 84 and Rountree Road in Vidalia. Cupstid died a day later in a Jackson hospital.

A parish jury found Loncar guilty in April of second-degree murder without evidence of the murder weapon or who fired it. Both men have accused each other of pulling the trigger.

Short and Loncar fled to Florida after the murder, where they were eventually caught and arrested.

Loncar will receive a mandatory life sentence without parole or probation, but official sentencing has not yet taken place.