A Clark County Superior Court jury on Tuesday acquitted Brent Luyster III of second-degree murder in the fatal May 2021 stabbing of his stepfather in Amboy.
Luyster, 18, became emotional after hearing the not-guilty verdict and looked at his attorney with surprise on his face.
After a final defense witness testified in the morning, the prosecution and defense made their closing arguments before the case went to the jury around 2 p.m. Jurors deliberated for nearly 2½ hours before reaching the verdict.
Luyster, who took the stand Monday, claimed self-defense in the stabbing.
His defense attorney, Michele Michalek, described him to the jury as a “scared little boy dealing with a brute man in a drunken rage attacking him with a stick.”
Outside of the courtroom, Michalek said she was shocked by the verdict, but she thinks the jury saw Luyster was afraid during the incident. She said that after being in jail for more than a year, since his arrest in this case — in addition to his upbringing — he will need services to find his way in life.
Judge Suzan Clark said she wishes Luyster success and hopes to not see him in court again. Luyster apologized to the judge for his previous comments, including when he swore at her during his first appearance. Clark said she understands how emotions run high and doesn’t hold that against him.
Senior Deputy Prosecutor Jeff McCarty said he appreciates the jury’s hard work deciding the challenging case and respects their decision.
During his closing argument, McCarty said Luyster had no other intent than to kill Luther Moore, 48, when he stabbed him 11 times, puncturing his lungs, on May 23, 2021, at Moore’s apartment. He again noted the way Moore’s injuries differed in severity from Luyster’s injuries of a cut on his pinky finger and redness on his back. He said Moore was butchered while Luyster was barely hurt.
“Sometimes an act just speaks for itself,” McCarty said. “When you plunge a knife into someone’s body cavity multiple times, you have no other intent than to kill that person.”
Michalek questioned why Luyster would want to kill Moore; he viewed Moore as a father figure after Moore was married to his mother for about seven years. Luyster is the son and namesake of convicted triple-murderer Brent Luyster.
Michalek said the redness on the teen’s back showed he was trying to leave the apartment when Moore hit him with a broomstick.
“Brent did what he did because he had to,” Michalek said.
But McCarty questioned why Moore would try to kill Luyster after several people testified that the two loved each other.
Postmortem toxicology results found Moore had a blood-alcohol level of 0.22. McCarty said Luyster’s mother testified that her soon-to-be ex-husband could at times be a happy drunk.
McCarty also questioned Luyster’s testimony that Moore shouted at the top of his lungs that he was going to kill him, which McCarty said no neighbors heard. He also questioned the credibility of Luyster’s claims that he held onto his socks and his shoes while wrestling with Moore — knocking items over in the living room — and stabbing him multiple times.
The final witness to testify for the defense Tuesday morning was Dr. Megan Quinn, who performed the autopsy on Moore’s body while she was employed with the Clark County Medical Examiner’s Office. Quinn testified the trajectory of the stab wounds to Moore’s back that punctured his lungs was forward, right and upward.
Michalek told the jury the trajectory of the wounds could be consistent with Luyster’s testimony that Moore was on top of him when he stabbed him.
But McCarty noted that although Luyster had blood on his hands and arms, he had little on his clothes; Clark County Medical Examiner Dr. Martha Burt testified that those wounds would have bled profusely.
Michalek told the jury not to think with their hearts and let the brutality of the autopsy photos sway them to finding Luyster guilty.
“Think with your head,” she told the jury. “If you’re thinking with your head, you’ll come to the conclusion that Brent is not guilty.”