The jury in the murder trial of former N.C. State University student James Bartlett Upchurch III will hear closing arguments Monday.
Defense attorneys for Upchurch rested their case Friday after presenting two hours of evidence that refuted testimony by two alleged co-conspirators.Upchurch's father and uncle testified that he was in Gastonia or Caswell County most of the week prior to the brutal attacks that killed Leith Peter Von Stein and wounded his wife, Bonnie Von Stein. The witnesses said Upchurch could not have planned the attacks during that week, as two friends of Upchurch had testified.
Upchurch is charged with first-degree murder in Leith Von Stein's July 25, 1988, death.
Christopher Pritchard, a friend of Upchurch, told jurors earlier last week that he had hired Upchurch and another friend, Gerald Neal Henderson, to kill his family so that he could receive a $2 million inheritance.
Pritchard told jurors that he first asked Upchurch to participate in the plot July 19, 1988. Upchurch's father testified that Upchurch had attended his grandfather's funeral in Gastonia that day.
Henderson, who confessed to his part in the plot nearly one year after the slayings, had testified that he and Upchurch met twice during the week of July 17-22.
Pritchard and Henderson were allowed to plead guilty to lesser charges in the conspiracy to commit murder in exchange for their testimony against Upchurch. Both young men face life plus 20 years in prison.
James B. Upchurch Jr. told jurors Friday that he picked up his son at N.C. State University July 19, 1988, and took him to his grandfather's funeral.
Upchurch testified that he did not take his son back to Raleigh until July 22, 1988.
The defendant's uncle, Charles Jenkins, brought photographs of the younger Upchurch and other family members at the funeral and a guest book showing his signature.
The older Upchurch, however, said he did not know where his son was July 25, the morning of the attack at the Von Steins' Washington, N.C., home.