Sudderth murder trial under way

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Was it a case of calculated murder or justified self-defense? An eight-man, four woman jury was seated Monday to decide that question in the trial of Isaiah Sudderth.

The Columbus man is on trial this week, charged in connection with the death of Damon Pringle this summer.

In his opening argument, Assistant Lawrence County Prosecutor Jeff Smith told jurors Sudderth, 25, had no reason to kill Pringle, but shot the 31-year-old four times anyway.

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“He did so purposefully,” Jeff Smith said. “He intended to do it. … This is murder, pure and simple.”

But Sudderth’s attorney, Roger Smith, countered that Pringle and a group of friends had gone uninvited to where Sudderth was staying and Pringle had assaulted Sudderth before Sudderth grabbed a gun and shot Pringle.

“My client did not go looking for Damon Pringle. He (Pringle) burst into the house where my client had a right to be and brought the fight to him … In his mind at that time he did what he had to do to stop this aggression.”

Kristen Schneider, a friend of Pringle’s who knew both men, testified that the two men had both been at the American Legion with separate groups of friends and family on the night of June 17 and the chance meeting was amicable.

But she told the court a friend of hers had broken up with a friend of Pringle’s and that she had been calling Sudderth’s cell phone throughout the evening and very early on the morning of June 18, trying to retrieve an apartment key the man had that belonged to her friend.

Schneider said she had made several phone calls speaking to either Sudderth or his girlfriend, Kim Sammons. At one point, she and Sammons had become upset with each other. At another point, she called Sudderth’s phone and someone hung up on her.

Schneider said she decided to go to Sammons’ apartment to discuss the situation and on the way met up with Pringle and a group of friends who accompanied her to Sammons’ apartment in the 800 block of South 10th Street.

Schneider said she did not know who opened the door at the Sammons’ apartment to allow her and her friends, including Pringle, to enter.

According to Schneider, at one point while the two camps were in Sammons’ kitchen, Pringle struck Sudderth with an open hand “five or six times.”

“Did you see Damon pick up a weapon of any kind?” Jeff Smith asked her.

“No,” Schineider replied.

“Did you hear him threaten Mr. Sudderth?” Jeff Smith queried.

“No,” she answered.

“Did you hear Damon say he was going to get a gun?” Jeff Smith asked.

“No,” Schneider said.

It was after Pringle struck Sudderth that Sudderth went upstairs and got a gun, both sides agreed. When Sudderth returned downstairs, he shot Pringle, both sides have agreed.

But under cross-examination, Roger Smith asked why Schneider felt the need to go to the Sammons’ residence well after midnight to confront the other woman.

“You knew he (Sudderth) had been drinking, but you thought this was a good time to go and talk about the situation?” Roger Smith asked.

“Yes,” Schneider answered.

“Instead of going to bed and sleeping on it you decided to go to Kim’s and discuss it?” Roger Smith asked.

Schneider denied that at one point, Pringle threw Sudderth into a chair in the living room.

“It’s fair to say she (Sammons) didn’t invite you over,” Roger Smith said.

“She said, ‘If you want some you can come and get it,’” Schneider said.

“Why did Isaiah have to get permission to go to the bathroom?” Roger Smith said.

“He (Pringle) had ahold of him,” Schneider replied.

“This situation could have been avoided if everyone had decided just to not go over there,” Roger Smith said to Schneider.

“Yes,” she replied.

Also Monday, Ironton police Capt. Joe Ross testified he had been dispatched to the Sammons’ residence on the morning of June 18 and people there told him Sudderth had shot Pringle and then fled the scene in a white Ford Explorer.

Police Chief Jim Carey also testified that he had been called to the scene and described to the jury photographs and other evidence collected from the shooting site.

Pringle family members cried as Carey identified bloody shirts Pringle was wearing when he was shot.

The trial continues before Judge Charles Cooper in Lawrence County Common Pleas Court.