Drunk, armed and angling for a confrontation, John Navigato gathered “his boys” and headed to Robin Leydel’s farmhouse in Brighton, a prosecutor said.
But, defense attorneys said Tuesday, Navigato never meant for Leydel to die.
“It was a tragic accident,” Jason Rossell, Navigato’s lawyer, said.
The explanation came as lawyers laid out their views of the evidence against Navigato and Teddy W. Bieker, whose trial began Monday before Kenosha County Circuit Judge Anthony Milisauskas.
Navigato, 51, of Bristol, and Bieker, 20, of Kenosha, are charged for the Oct. 13, 2009, murder of Leydel, 50. If convicted, they face life in prison.
Bieker is accused of shooting Leydel during a home invasion. Navigato is accused of leading Bieker and two other men to Leydel’s home, where Navigato planned to confront Leydel, an on-again-off-again friend he’d known since high school, about possibly selling drugs.
All about drugs
Authorities found no evidence that Leydel was involved with drugs. And Leydel’s wife, Susan, testified Tuesday that he didn’t sell drugs and would never have sold them to Navigato’s daughters, as Navigato believed. The girls were her and Robin’s godchildren, she said.
But Navigato told police he had heard rumors months earlier that Leydel had sold drugs that might have gotten to his girls. So, with guns for protection, Navigato went to confront him, Rossell explained to the jury.
They never talked about stealing Leydel’s prescription drugs; Leydel had been disabled in a car accident years earlier and had several pain medications and sleeping pills. The men also never talked about killing Leydel, Rossell said.
At the house, Navigato said Leydel knocked him down twice after answering the door. After that, he realized something was wrong with Leydel, who was suddenly bleeding from the chest.
Navigato didn’t realize his roommates, Bieker and Brian Suchecki, had gotten out of the car, Rossell said. And, while all three men had guns, Navigato’s was not loaded.
As for Bieker’s gun, defense attorney Douglas Henderson suggested to even use that term for the modified .22-caliber rifle would be a stretch. The wooden stock had been removed. There wasn’t even enough left to form a pistol-style grip. And the firing assembly was held together with a wiggly screw.
“It’s just a metal tube that’s able to fire a bullet,” Henderson said. “Unfortunately, Mr. Bieker accidentally pulled the trigger or the gun accidentally went off. It certainly was not an intentional act.”
Kenosha County District Attorney Robert Zapf rejected that explanation.
He promised the evidence would show that Navigato and the two others pushed their way into Leydel’s home to steal his prescriptions and any money they could find. Zapf also said the perpetrators were drunk and that Suchecki and Bieker also smoked marijuana, according to tests.
And, Zapf said, testimony from Susan Leydel and a recording of her 911 call would show that the guns Navigato claimed to have for protection were actually tools of intimidation and murder.
Susan Leydel testified Tuesday that before she called 911, Suchecki held a gun to her face. It was so close, she said, “I could have put my finger down the barrel.”