More than a year after three people were gunned down in back-to-back shootings in southeast Colorado Springs, two men accused in the crimes are scrambling to pin the blame on each other.
As their joint trial got under way in 4th Judicial District Court, attorneys for Richard Allon Spanks on Tuesday identified the killer as Spanks' co-defendant, Haywood Eugene Miller, saying he acted without warning their client.
Miller's legal team mostly returned the favor, but with a twist - saying Spanks killed two of the three victims "in a hail of gunfire" and forced Miller into a position where he had to kill the third person in self-defense.
"The worst decision Haywood Miller made was hanging out with Mr. Spanks," public defender Chad Miller said as the cross-allegations flew.
Both men are charged with first-degree murder in each death, and prosecutors asked the jury to hold them both responsible. The trial is expected to last up to eight weeks - slowed in part by having two legal teams confront each witness.
The shootings occurred Nov. 26 and Nov. 29, 2016, and prosecutors say the evidence proves that Spanks and Miller were on hand for each.
The first involved a botched drug deal at an apartment in the 2000 block of Carmel Drive that killed a bystander, Marcus Williams, 21, and left a local black market pot dealer, Eric Stone, blind in one eye and partially paralyzed.
Authorities say the violence erupted when Spanks, 26, tried to run out of Stone's apartment without paying for marijuana. When Stone got to the door first and blocked his passage, authorities say Miller, also 26, drew a pistol from his waistband and shot Stone and Williams.
Miller's attorneys say Stone was known to carry a knife, and that their client feared for his life when he shot Stone and Williams. Miller's attorneys say Williams stood up in a way that Miller perceived to be threatening.
Three days later, authorities say, a second double-shooting killed Victoria Loftis, 23, and Jacqueline Cline, 33, at a house in the 3500 block of Mosswood Lane. Prosecutors did not specify a motive but said an eyewitness will testify that Miller and Spanks were standing side by side as bullets flew into a bedroom where the women's bodies later were found riddled by bullets. Prosecutors say the men left the house after the first volley of gunfire and returned to fire more shots into the women.
One of Spanks' attorneys, David Lipka, said Miller was solely responsible for that attack, and the eyewitness implicated his client out of loyalty to Miller.
Prosecutors disclosed that a third person - as yet unidentified - was with Miller and Spanks during the Mosswood Lane shootings.
Trial testimony is expected to resume Wednesday.