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Jury Hears Final Arguments in Russ’ Wife-Murder Trial

Jurors in the murder trial of Charles Russ heard attorneys in final arguments Monday portray Russ alternately as the lying, cold-blooded killer of his wife and as a man who frantically searched for his wife the night she was murdered by a robber on Torrey Pines Road.

In a courtroom littered with blown-up documents and instructions, Deputy Dist. Atty. Mark Pettine described to the panel his theory of how Russ smashed Pamela Russ’s face against her own Mercedes-Benz and then ran over her injured body several times in order “to finish the job.”

Pettine laboriously juxtaposed Russ’ statements against known facts in an attempt to demonstrate that the defendant killed his wife to cover up his shaky financial situation and lied to cover up the crime.

According to the prosecutor, Russ murdered Pamela Russ early the morning of Feb. 1, 1987, in order to collect the money from three insurance policies and to suppress her knowledge of a scheme in which he stole money from his mother-in-law.

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Russ’s attorney, Bill Youmans, told jurors that Pamela Russ was aware of the couple’s financial problems, and they had planned to move to Australia “to start things over.”

Youmans said Russ purchased life insurance policies for both himself and his wife in 1984, based on advice from an insurance agent, not as a motive for murder.

Youmans is expected to conclude his argument this morning, followed by Pettine’s rebuttal.

After instructions from Superior Court Judge Michael Wellington, the jurors are expected to begin deliberations this afternoon. The trial is in its 10th week.

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