Trial began Tuesday for a Port Hueneme man accused of attempted murder in the brutal beating of an 84-year-old woman in October.
But the attorney for defendant John P. Duggan, 34, said the evidence points to the victim's grandson, not his client, as the attacker.
In his opening statement in Ventura County Superior Court, attorney William C. Maxwell said Duggan and the grandson, 27-year-old Alan Busher, had been on a three-day cocaine binge before the assault on Oct. 23. The evidence suggests that "Mr. Busher assaulted his grandmother in anger because he couldn't get more money for cocaine," Maxwell said.
"This serious, severe beating was the culmination of a long-term pattern of abuse by Mr. Busher," Maxwell said.
Busher, the first witness called by Deputy Dist. Atty. Lela M. Henke-Dobroth, said he did not use drugs and denied playing any role in the assault.
He said he had lived with his grandmother for several years and had known Duggan about a month when he allowed him to sleep on the living room couch at their Port Hueneme house.
About 5:30 a.m., Busher said, he was awakened by what sounded like a basketball bouncing. He turned on the light in his grandmother's bedroom and saw a pool of blood on the bed. On the floor was Duggan, he said, naked and hovering over the victim's blood-covered body.
"He stood up, and I charged him," Busher said. After a brief struggle, Duggan dived headfirst through a glass window in the living room.
Henke-Dobroth said Duggan ran about a block, entered a house and stole clothing, a car and credit cards. He was arrested about three weeks later in Los Angeles.
On cross-examination, Busher acknowledged that he had pleaded guilty to felony cruelty to a dependent adult about two years ago. Busher said he had gotten drunk and punched his mentally ill uncle three times. He was sentenced to 270 days for the attack and is still on probation.
Busher also acknowledged that about a year before the attack, his grandmother signed a deed turning over a two-thirds interest in her Port Hueneme property to him. But he said it was her idea, not his.
In a lawsuit filed last month, the woman said she signed the deed because she was afraid of Busher. The suit seeks to cancel the deed and asks for damages against Busher for allowing Duggan into her home.
Henke-Dobroth said after the court session that Busher "might be a lot of things, but he did not beat up his grandmother."
The elderly woman, meanwhile, is bedridden in a convalescent home and will not be able to testify, Henke-Dobroth said. The attack left her with severe emotional and physical scars, the prosecutor said.
In addition to attempted murder, Duggan is charged with assault, burglary, auto theft, attempted rape and aggravated mayhem--the intentional infliction of permanent disability or disfigurement. Conviction carries a penalty of life in prison with the possibility of parole.
The trial resumes today before Judge Lawrence Storch, who is hearing the case without a jury.