Huntzinger (left, innocent) and Giddings (guilty).




Murder suspects Billy Joe Giddings and Robert Louis Huntzinger both cried today when the verdict was read, but for different reasons.

Jurors convicted Giddings of second-degree murder, discharging a firearm and four counts of assault with a semiautomatic firearm. He faces up to life in state prison. But co-defendant Huntzinger was acquitted of all charges and will be released from Humboldt County Correctional Facility after being behind bars for more than two years.

Both were charged with murder and burglary in the death of 38-year-old Trevor Mark Harrison, who was shot dead on May 9, 2015, in the Arcata home of Harrison’s mother Kay Haug.

The jury deliberated for more than two days before reaching its decision. Two jurors who spoke with LoCo said they believed it was possible that Harrison did have a gun in his hand, as the defense contended.

“That was the million-dollar question,” said one juror who didn’t want to be named. But she said there was “absolutely” enough doubt about whether Harrison was armed.

Another big issue for the jury was the burglary charge. Three witnesses testified that after Giddings pulled a gun during a marijuana transaction and shot Harrison, Huntzinger came into the house with a duffel bag and went into a back bedroom, and they could hear drawers opening and closing.

But, also immediately after the shooting, Haug and her caregiver Demian Clearwater Starlight removed many pounds of marijuana bud and a gun from the house.  It was imposslble to tell whether it was Haug and Starlight or Huntzinger who had left drawers open, the juror said.

Another juror, Tyann Hamilton, said it was “not easy” for her personally to convict Giddings of even second-degree murder, but she had to follow the law, “and the law said second-degree.”

Asked what she thought happened the night of the killing, Hamilton said “chaos and confusion.”

“I don’t think anyone was acting rationally or normally,” she said.

According to trial testimony, Huntzinger and Manila resident Kimberly Steele had been at Haug’s home on Eastern Avenue twice that day before the fatal visit. They were trying to sell Haug some marijuana, and both times it was rejected.

The third time Steele came to the house with Giddings, who reportedly pulled a gun within seconds and shot Harrison as he was trying to keep Huntzinger from coming in the front door. Three eyewitnesses said Harrison was not armed, but Giddings’ attorney Luke Brownfield argued that Giddings fired only because Harrison was pointing a gun at him. And Haug admitted she disposed of a gun, but said it was because it belonged to her caregiver’s mother and was unregistered.

Haug, who was there for the verdict this afternoon, had no comment except to say she is concerned about the whereabouts of missing witness Kimberly Steele. Steele was a marijuana broker who was at Haug’s home twice that day with Huntzinger and once with Giddings. She did not testify. Deputy District Attorney Roger Rees told LoCo earlier in the trial that he had wanted to call Steele as a witness. He said he could not comment on why she was unavailable.

Giddings, in addition to the second-degree murder charge, was found guilty of four counts of assault with a semiautomatic firearm. The named victims were Steele, Haug, Starlight and Kenneth Eskridge. All were in Haug’s home when the shooting occurred, and all said Giddings held them at gunpoint.

Giddings was acquitted of the charges of robbery and making threats. Haug had said Giddings demanded and took her purse, which he denied.

Prosecutor Rees was unavailable for comment, and Giddings’ attorney Brownfield did not want to make a statement. But Russ Clanton, representing Huntzinger, said he was gratified by the jury’s decision.

“The community should take pride that we have a process that works here,” Clanton said. “That we have jurors who are prepared to deal with a very serious matter fairly and with comprehension.”

Judge Dale Reinholtsen presided over the trial and will sentence Giddings at a later date.