Jurors debated Brian Gale's fate for three hours before stopping for the night. Earlier Thursday, they listened to his explanation of the trip into the swamp from which his stepson did not return.
Gale testified he thought he and his stepson, Daniel Head, were going to the Buffalo Swamp for a few hours to prepare hunting plots on the day the teen died. He said he felt responsible for the death, but not guilty of murder.
"It's my fault that he went out there," Gale said from the witness stand. "But I didn't kill him."
He claimed he and the 14 year old were close and were in the swamp March 7, 2010, to hunt turkeys and hone the boy's hunting skills. Gale said, a few hours into their hike, Daniel became fatigued and lethargic. Defense attorneys introduced claims Daniel had taken medication that made him exhausted.
"I was asking him if he was on some kind of drug and he said no, but he kept wanting to stop and rest," Gale stated.
He said those delays kept them in the swamp later and forced them to find their way back out in the dark. But Gale said Daniel lost an expensive flashlight he'd let the teen use, so seeing their GPS became more diffifult.
Finally, after carrying Daniel as far as he could, Gale said he left the boy in order to find a way out of the swamp to find help.
"I tried to start a fire to keep him warm and find my way back to him, but my lighter was wet from the water and it wouldn't work," Gale said.
Prosecutors pointed out Gale typically carried a flint stick to start fires and more outdoor gear than what he carried on this trip, including his cell phone.
Gale is charged with both malice murder and felony murder, as well as child endangerment and other charges. Prosecutors told jurors in closing statements they could find him guilty, or not guilty, of either. Malice murder would imply a deliberate action to take the boy's life, they explained. Felony murder is applied when a person commits a crime that leads to a death.
Gale claimed it took him 10 hours to find his way to the nearest home to get help for Daniel. He found friend Keith Williams at home and Williams said Gale arrived almost unrecognizable, muddy, suffering hypothermia and unable to speak.
Friends of Gale testified on Thursday that Gale knew the Buffalo swamp better than almost anyone. However, even the most experience outdoorsman could become lost in the dense woods, thick mud and Cypress trees.
During cross examination, prosecutors questioned whether Gale was honestly lost or delaying his return to Daniel. In addition, the state claimed Daniel's death may have been deliberate - that Gale may have forced the boy's head below the water surface in frustration.
The jury will return to the McIntosh County courthouse Friday morning to resume deliberations.
Friday, May 24 2013 7:57 PM EDT2013-05-24 23:57:32 GMT
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