After deliberating for less than three hours Thursday, a Boone County jury found Lucille Faith Duncan guilty of first-degree murder and armed criminal action in the shooting death of her ex-boyfriend, James Pruitt.
During closing arguments, Boone County prosecuting attorney Kevin Crane stood near the bloodstained car seat Pruitt was occupying when he died and told jurors that Duncan, 37, showed “cool reflection and deliberation” in planning and carrying out the murder with her brother, Gerald Alan Duncan. He has been accused of shooting Pruitt as he sat in the front seat of Lucille Duncan’s car and is scheduled to stand trial for first-degree murder in April.
Crane said that while Lucille Duncan did not pull the trigger, she “acted with and encouraged” her brother to kill Pruitt.
“This was going to happen,” Crane said. “She knew it, and she put this in motion. She is not a creature of circumstance. She is the creator of her circumstances.”
Public defender Jan King acknowledged that Lucille Duncan was present at the time of the shooting but argued that she had no prior knowledge that her brother planned to kill Pruitt. King said statements Duncan made immediately after the murder, telling police she was “set up” by the real killer, were merely the words of a terrified woman attempting to protect herself.
“The rational behavior of a human being in a situation like that would be of a hunted animal,” King said. “How rational can you behave when someone’s pulled a trigger behind you?”
King argued that the only evidence prosecutors had against his client was the testimony of her son, 14-year-old Jeremiah Robertson, who was also present on the night of the murder. Robertson testified Wednesday that his mother and uncle told him of their intention to kill Pruitt that night.
“They said they might kill him,” said Robertson, who also told the jurors that Gerald Duncan showed him the gun he intended to use.
Robertson testified that on the way home from the Missouri River, where they had been launching fireworks, he heard the shot and saw his uncle lower the gun as Robertson sat in the back seat alongside Gerald Duncan.
The next morning, Robertson testified, he helped disassemble and dispose of the murder weapon.
Robertson also faced charges in connection with the murder and was certified in December to be tried as an adult. But, earlier this year, prosecutors made a deal with Robertson, who agreed to plead guilty to felony tampering and to testify against his mother and uncle. That allowed prosecutors to raise the charges against Lucille Duncan from second-degree murder to first-degree murder.
King described Robertson as a “cold kid” whose story could not be trusted.
“He could have been charged with second-degree murder, just like his mother was,” King said.
Robertson, who currently lives with his paternal grandmother, has not yet been sentenced, according to Crane.
During the jury’s deliberations, Lucille and Gerald’s mother, Jo Ann Duncan, defended her daughter, saying she is the type of person whobecomes dependent on others easily.
“Lucy gets emotionally hooked-up and is very unwise about when to let go,” she said. “But she’s the type that truly cares about people.”
The fact that Lucille’s son was there to witness Pruitt’s death, Jo Ann Duncan said, is proof that Lucille had no knowledge of a plan to kill him.
“I know that if they had intended to do it ahead of time, neither of them would have wanted Jeremiah there,” Jo Ann Duncan said. “They would’ve dropped him off at home, at his grandma’s, anywhere.”
Lucille Duncan is scheduled to be sentenced April 5. Under Missouri law, a first-degree murder conviction is punishable by execution or life in prison without parole. Crane has said he does not plan to seek the death penalty in her case.