New jury asked to decide: Was it suicide pact or husband covering up murder? — (The Oregonian)

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The Oregonian/OregonLive

By Aimee Green 

on March 18, 2015 at 4:42 PM

Opening statements  Prosecutor Tom Cleary makes opening statements on Wednesday in the murder trial of Lloyd Erp, who is accused of killing his wife and then shooting himself in the head in March 2013.

A second trial began Wednesday in the case of a 52-year-old Northeast Portland woman who prosecutors say died when her husband fired two bullets into her head, but defense attorneys say killed herself as part of a suicide pact that her husband unexpectedly survived.

Six months ago, a Multnomah County Circuit Court jury deadlocked on the third day of deliberations over the question of whether 58-year-old Lloyd Erp murdered his wife in 2013 or sat distraught beside her as she fired the fatal .22-caliber rounds into her own head. Lloyd Erp shot himself twice in the head, but survived.

On Wednesday, prosecutor Tom Cleary and defense attorney Kasia Rutledge made opening statements to a new jury of 12.

Officers responded to the home in the 4200 block of Northeast Campaign Street about 5:30 a.m. on March 2, 2013, to check on the couple after Lloyd Erp sent a suicidal email to a friend and the friend called police. After about half an hour of trying to get someone to come to the door, police left.

But they returned later that morning when Lloyd Erp called 911 saying he needed medical attention because he’d shot himself in the head.

The prosecutor noted that Lloyd Erp told the 911 dispatcher that “I shot us a couple of hours ago.” Lloyd Erp told the dispatcher that his wife, Lori, was dead.

“(The dispatcher) asks the defendant directly: ‘Did your wife shoot herself?'” Cleary recounted. “And the defendant answers: ‘I’m not going to answer anymore questions.'”

When police arrived, Erp refused to come out of the house. A standoff followed — with Erp angrily swearing and talking with a dispatcher and police officer on the phone. Police didn’t want to go in because they knew he was under mental distress and had a gun.

It’s unclear how badly Erp was injured by the bullets to his head, but he was healthy enough five days later to be released from the hospital and booked into the Multnomah County jail.

Opening statements: Defense attorney Kasia Rutledge makes opening statements in the case of Lloyd Erp, who is accused of murdering his wife Lori Erp in March 2013.

Rutledge, one of his defense attorneys, told jurors that Erp awoke in a fog that morning, hours after shooting himself. He started to get ready for work when he felt his wife’s cold arm in bed.

“It was then that he realized that she had succeeded in killing herself, and he had failed,” Rutledge said.

When he got on the phone with 911, Rutledge said, “he answers questions in a way that doesn’t make sense… But he does tell them this was a suicide pact. ‘We were supposed to go together. I’m not supposed to be here.'”

The Erps were married in 2000 and were deeply in love, but eventually began to struggle with health problems, including a cancerous tumor that surgeons removed from Lloyd Erp’s colon and severe depression that Lori Erp endured, Rutledge said.

Neither could work, and both became addicted to prescription painkillers as Lori Erp spent her days chain smoking and watching black-and-white TV shows in their home, Rutledge said. The couple spent $500 a month on their co-pays for painkillers and anti-depressants, and sunk into even deeper financial trouble when they stopped making mortgage payments on their house in March 2012, Rutledge said.

The Erps agreed to end their lives by borrowing a friend’s rifle and killing themselves, Rutledge said. Rutledge pointed to a suicide note that she said Lori Erp wrote, and both signed.

It read:  “I love you all. I hope you will not be sad for too long because this was the best thing for me and Lloyd. We love each other too much to continue struggling without hope of living a respectable life.  Lloyd and I are doing this together. This is our decision and our choice. We want to be remembered as happy loving people.”

If convicted, Erp faces a sentence of life in prison with the possibility of release after 25 years. The trial is scheduled to last until next week on Thursday in the courtroom of Judge Edward Jones.

— Aimee Green


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Jury acquits Portland husband accused of ‘murdering’ wife who wanted to die — (The Oregonian)

By Aimee Green | The Oregonian/OregonLive

on March 25, 2015 at 2:52 PM, updated March 25, 2015 at 5:42 PM

Defense attorney Kasia Rutledge made opening statements to the jury on March 18, 2015, on behalf of her client, Lloyd Erp.

A Multnomah County jury acquitted a Northeast Portland man Wednesday of murdering his wife as part of a botched suicide pact that he survived but left her dead.

The jury deliberated less than a day before determining 11-1 that Lloyd Erp was not guilty of killing his wife, Lori Erp, in March 2013.

After more than two years in jail awaiting trial, 58-year-old Lloyd Erp is expected to be released late Wednesday afternoon — in time to eat dinner with his defense team. After hearing the verdict, an emotional Erp enveloped his defense attorneys, Kasia Rutledge and Stephanie Engelsman, in hugs.

“One last time,” said Erp, as deputies put him in handcuffs and led him off to Multnomah County jail.

The case was exceptionally rare: A husband accused of murdering his wife even though the couple had signed a suicide note stating their reasons for wanting to die.

Their story might have ended on the morning of March 2, 2013, in the bedroom of their Northeast Portland home when each suffered two bullet wounds to the head. But Lloyd Erp survived.

The perplexing question was who actually fired the fatal rounds into Lori Erp’s head: Was it Lori? Or was it Lloyd?

One juror told The Oregonian/OregonLive that almost all of the jurors had reasonable doubt that Lloyd Erp actually pulled the trigger.

“We were in there, just sobbing,” said one juror, as she left the jury room. “It was a very emotional trial.”

It was the second time a 12-person jury has been asked to rule in the case. Six months ago, on the third day of deliberations, the first jury deadlocked and the case was declared a mistrial.

The second trial began last week, and the new jury started deliberations late Tuesday and concluded early Wednesday afternoon.

During closing arguments, prosecutor Tom Cleary told jurors that they must cast aside any personal beliefs and follow Oregon law, which says that if they believe Lloyd Erp shot those fatal rounds, they must find him guilty of murder.

“This is not a Death With Dignity case,” the prosecutor said.

A guilty verdict would have required Multnomah County Circuit Judge Edward Jones to sentence Lloyd Erp to life in prison with the possibility of release after 25 years.

The judge told jurors that Oregon law doesn’t define murder as assisting another in committing suicide. An example of that might be handing someone a loaded gun. But the law does define murder as committing the actual killing, the judge said — in other words, actually pulling the trigger even if the person wanted to die.

Lloyd Erp wasn’t tried for second-degree manslaughter, which criminalizes helping someone commit suicide. (Second-degree manslaughter — as well as murder — don’t apply to physician-assisted suicide).

Closing argumentsThe prosecution and the defense argue to the jury about whether Lloyd Erp is guilty of murdering his wife Lori Erp.

But second-degree manslaughter might not have been feasible in trial given that the prosecution’s sole theory was that Lloyd Erp didn’t “assist” his wife in killing herself — he actually did the killing.

Jurors were not given the option of finding Lloyd Erp guilty of manslaughter.

It was murder or nothing.

During closing arguments, defense attorney Rutledge told jurors that the Erps were deeply in love, but suffered health problems, addictions to painkillers and were facing foreclosure on their home and homelessness because neither was making any income.

“The evidence shows that Lori committed suicide herself,” Rutledge said.

Lloyd Erp, who testified during the eight-day trial, contended that his wife shot herself before he took the rifle and tried to kill himself.

But Dr. Christopher Young, deputy state medical examiner, testified that he determined Lori Erp didn’t shoot herself and she died by homicidal violence.

A defense expert, Dr. Michael Propst, countered that it’s unclear if Lori Erp died by her own hand or someone else’s. Propst is a former medical examiner from Alaska.

Both .22-caliber rounds entered the back of Lori Erp’s head and traveled upward. Cleary, the prosecutor, argued that given the location and trajectory, it makes much more sense that Lloyd Erp fired the rifle.

Lloyd ErpMCSO

“It’s hard to imagine how someone could get into that position, fire a rifle – especially someone who had no experience handling firearms,” Cleary said.

What’s more, the prosecutor said, Lloyd Erp admitted to the shooting, telling a 911 operator that morning: “I shot us a couple of hours ago.”

But Rutledge said Lloyd Erp was bleeding from two bullet wounds to his own head at that point and said a lot of things during that phone call that didn’t make sense.

Rutledge also pointed to defense expert testimony that Lori Erp, 52, could have used her thumb or some sort of rope or belt to pull the trigger from that angle.

The defense contended that Lori Erp was depressed and spent her days chain smoking and watching black-and-white TV shows in their home. The couple stopped making mortgage payments and pawned everything of value.

“People who are murdered in their sleep by their husbands don’t leave suicide notes,” Rutledge said. “They don’t pawn their wedding rings … for $150. Lori did. And Lloyd did.”

Lloyd Erp testified that he misses his wife terribly, and that some days he still wants to die.

After being released from jail, Erp will move in with a longtime friend in California and “stay as long as he wants,” said the friend, C.D. Creech III. Creech said everything Erp once owned is now gone. The first thing Creech planned to do with Erp was take him shopping for some new clothes, he said.

Rutledge said Erp didn’t get to attend his wife’s memorial service in Ohio.

“This has been two long years that Lloyd has been in custody, waiting to be exonerated,” Rutledge said. “He has not been able to grieve. He has not been able to process what happened and his survivor’s guilt. And now he gets a chance to do that.”

-Aimee Green,, 503-913-4197