An Oklahoma County jury late Friday convicted a preacher of first-degree manslaughter in the shooting death of his son-in-law during a dispute over a pickup.
Michael Scott Elder, 54, was charged with first-degree murder in the slaying of son-in-law Gary Davidson, 27, who was shot and killed outside his home near NW 12 and Miller Avenue on Feb. 20, 2013.
It took about 10 hours for the jury of seven men and five women to convict Elder of a lesser, alternative charge of first-degree manslaughter due to the heat of passion surrounding the crime.
The jury recommended a sentence of 15 years. Formal sentencing is set for April 28.
“We’re relieved that he was held accountable,” prosecutor Suzanne Lavenue said after the verdict was read.
“It was a stupid, senseless crime,” she said.
April Davidson, Gary Davidson’s husband and Michael Elder’s daughter, drove a pickup the couple shared and which Gary Davidson used for work over to the home. They were supposed to exchange the couple’s daughter, who Gary Davidson had picked up from day care the day before, for the vehicle.
Gary Davidson had filed for divorce in Oklahoma County the day before the shooting.
“I thought it was going to be a mutual exchange and everyone was going to be happy,” Elder testified.
But Davidson did not give the girl to Elder, and instead ran from the home to the pickup and jumped into the cab with April Davidson. Elder testified he feared for his daughter’s life and saw a shiny metal object in Davidson’s hand, which he thought was a gun.
“I’m thinking, ‘He doesn’t want the truck. He wants her,’” Elder testified. “I was totally scared. She’s my daughter.”
“I yelled at him, ‘Gary, don’t hurt her!” Elder testified. “I see a silver, cylinder-shaped object in his right hand.”
Elder said he cocked the gun and a round ejected. He chambered another round and fired the shot, but Gary Davidson didn’t respond, Elder testified.
“He raised that silver object at me, and I fired two more times,” he testified.
The first bullet hit Gary Davidson’s hand. The second went through his chest and out his back. The third bullet went into Davidson’s shoulder and hit his heart and both lungs, fatally wounding him, Dr. Chai Choi, a forensic pathologist with the state medical examiner’s office testified.
But a police investigator testified that soot marks on Gary Davidson’s hand showed he had swiped at the gun, rather than grabbing for the weapon, as Elder testified.
April Davidson testified that Gary Davidson had grabbed her neck and shoulder area while inside the pickup, but did not hit her. She did not mention a weapon in Gary Davidson’s hand.
April Davidson had in the days before the shooting begun telling her father about a pattern of abuse that Gary Davidson perpetuated towards her during their relationship.
April Davidson also testified that Gary Davidson used methamphetamine.
Elder’s defense attorneys argued that it was the drug that created the “crazed look” in Gary Davidson’s eyes just before the shooting.
A “toxic” amount of the drug was found in his blood at the time of his death, Choi testified.
In closing arguments, Lavenue argued that April Davidson’s account of the events had changed multiple times since the shooting.
“April Davidson can’t tell the same story twice to save her life,” Lavenue said. “April Davidson doesn’t want to lose her dad.”
“April Davidson is the only person you’ve heard describe Gary Davidson as a violent person,” she said.
Defense attorney Malcolm Savage argued in closing that Elder had his two grandchildren in his own vehicle and was going to church after the exchange was made.
“Gary Davidson was the aggressor,” Savage said. “Everyone had turned to leave, but he wasn’t going to let that happen.”
“What this case boils down to is a father trying to protect his child. He was trying to protect his child from someone who has done some horrible things,” he said.
“Gary Davidson went from being the best husband ever to being a man who wanted to kill her,” Savage said. “The culprit here is the meth that changed him,” he said.