Pauls Valley —
An Oklahoma man accused of fatally shooting his girlfriend’s ex-husband, cutting up his body and stuffing the remains into cement-filled buckets was ordered Thursday to stand trial on a first-degree murder charge.
Garvin County Special Judge Trisha Misak ruled there is probable cause to try Justin Hammer, 31, in the Aug. 7, 2012, death of 32-year-old Brandon Duran. Misak scheduled formal arraignment for April 26 before District Judge Greg Dixon.
Hammer has entered an initial plea of not guilty in the case, and defense attorney Irven Box has said Hammer fired in self-defense after Duran forced his way into Hammer’s home. First Assistant District Attorney Mark Gibson said the evidence indicates Hammer planned to shoot Duran.
Among other things, prosecutors produced invoices from a Pauls Valley hardware store during the preliminary hearing that indicated Hammer purchased five five-gallon buckets, lids and bags of concrete on the day before Duran was shot.
“We believe it was pre-meditated,” Gibson said.
He said District Attorney Greg Mashburn has not decided whether to seek the death penalty in the case. First-degree murder is punishable by death or life in prison with or without the possibility of parole.
Hammer, who wore an orange jail-issued jumpsuit, said nothing when sheriff’s deputies led him away following the hearing. His grandfather, Skeet Welch, indicated Hammer’s close relationship with his girlfriend likely played a role in the incident.
“Each individual has different thoughts when it comes to romance,” Welch said. “We’re talking about something very serious to him.”
During the hearing, friends of Hammer testified they overheard his girlfriend tell Hammer that Duran beat and abused her when they were married. They said she also was upset about a custody battle over the couple’s young child. Hammer’s girlfriend did not testify during the hearing.