AUBURN — A DeKalb County jury Thursday acquitted a St. Joe man of attempted murder involving a January 2018 fight that ended in a stabbing.
Larry Leslie, 60, formerly of the 300 block of Mill Drive, St. Joe, stood trial in DeKalb Superior Court II this week, accused of stabbing Richard Logan with a Ka-Bar knife, leaving Logan with a laceration to his neck and two puncture wounds to his chest and abdomen.
While finding Leslie not guilty of the Level 1 felony charge, the jury could not reach a unanimous verdict on a lesser charge of aggravated battery, a Level 3 felony. DeKalb County Prosecutor ClaraMary Winebrenner indicated she will re-try that charge. A trial date has not yet been set.
Leslie had contended he was acting in self-defense and that the stabbings were accidental.
Leslie testified that Logan was violent and aggressive when he had been drinking whiskey and that Logan had threatened him in the past. There were two occasions when Logan had beaten him and tried to provoke him into a fight at the Oasis Tavern in St. Joe, Leslie said.
During the trial, the jury heard contrasting versions of what happened leading up to the Jan. 21, 2018, incident — Logan indicating that Leslie was the aggressor, and Leslie saying he was afraid of Logan and did not intend to engage Logan in any way.
Logan’s longtime girlfriend is the daughter of a woman with whom Leslie had been in a long-term relationship at the time of the incident.
Leslie said his former girlfriend had warned him that if ever he retaliated or fought with Logan, she immediately would ask him to leave her house, where he was living. Their relationship ended after his arrest, he said.
Logan and Leslie had argued the night before the stabbing after drinking alcohol at a party, and the argument resumed via telephone calls and text messages the next morning, Logan testified.
In a text message, Logan told Leslie, “Meet ya in the road right now. Put up or shut up.”
Leslie said he saw Logan’s texts as a threat and was afraid Logan would come to the house of his girlfriend, where he was.
From inside the house, Leslie said, he saw Logan standing at the end of the driveway. Leslie said he got his Ka-Bar knife, which he obtained while serving in the U.S. Marines.
After checking outside the door, Leslie said, he did not see Logan outside the house, and it appeared he had left.
Leslie said he then was outside his property with his dog, and as he called to the dog to go back inside the house, Logan appeared, stating, “Here I am.”
Leslie said he told Logan to go home, but that Logan began hitting and swinging at him with both fists.
Leslie said he remembered he had the knife and managed to unsheathe it, using a slashing movement to create a boundary space between Logan and himself.
Leslie testified that Logan’s chest wound was caused by Logan impaling himself on the knife blade as he head-butted Leslie and that the other wounds were accidental.
During closing arguments Thursday, defense attorney Adam Squiller said Leslie had heeded the ultimatum of his girlfriend that he had better not fight with Logan or she would end the relationship. Squiller said Leslie’s version of events indicate he encountered Logan when he went to retrieve his dog from his property.
“Every time he has been challenged by Richie, he chose not to engage,” Squiller said.
Squiller said there also were inconsistencies with Logan’s version of the fight and a version given by an eyewitness.
“Larry says he was swinging the knife defensively,” Squiller said. “Larry Leslie was in fear for his life. … Larry’s acts were inconsistent with intent to kill. If Larry’s intent was to kill Richie, what stopped him? Why not finish him off?”
During her closing argument Thursday, Winebrenner contended that Leslie voluntarily met Logan outside to fight. She noted Leslie did not call police when Logan sent him the text that Leslie claimed had scared him.
She said if Leslie, of his own volition, went and engaged in the fight, then self-defense is “out the window.”
“Larry Leslie chose to go fight with him, so he doesn’t get to claim self-defense,” Winebrenner said.
She also questioned the likelihood of the wounds being inflicted accidentally in three "kill zones" — the neck, chest and abdomen.
“The odds are just impossible. Crazy odds for each wound,” Winebrenner said.
After the fight, Leslie walked away and did not call for help for himself, the jury heard.
“He didn’t act like someone who had just had to fight for his life," she said. “He didn’t call police. … He went to a friend’s house and said, ‘I think I ****** up,” Winebrenner added.