Trial in 2012 double slaying draws closer to a verdict

Trial in 2012 double slaying draws closer to a verdict

EUGENE, Ore. - The homes buried deep in the thick woods south of Eugene enjoy a sense of privacy.
 
It was here in these hills where Lane County investigators say neighbors discovered two bodies Sept. 7, 2012.

One of the people was dead, the other still clinging to life.

Sheriff's deputies shared little information the next morning.

"At this time we have no reason to believe that there is any additional threat to the public based on this incident," Detective Sgt. Cliff Harrold said, "but we are going to be out here for a little while still checking and making sure we are doing a good thorough job on this."

It wasn't reported at the time, but arrest reports later revealed a man was found bludgeoned to death in a home and a woman was taken to the hospital in critical condition.

She later died from her injuries: blunt force to the head.

Deputies remained tight-lipped as they took a man into custody.

Law enfocement scoured some 650 acres of property, the scene of past controversy in Lane County.

Neighbors said the owner - 73-year-old James Gillette - was widely known for his conflicts over land use with government officials.

At the time, the public wasn't aware that it was Gillete and his 71-year-old longtime domestic partner, University of Oregon music dean emeritus Anne McLucas, who had been killed.

Gillette's well-known dealings with government quickly took a back seat to an outpouring of grief for McLucas.

The news was even harder for loved ones to hear when the murder suspect's name was reported: Johan Gillette, the victim's son who lived in another home on the property his father owned.

A sworn affidavit filed in court by detectives painted a gruesome picture of their deaths.

According to the affidavit, Johan's girlfriend Asia Seaton - who was also living on the property with the Gillettes - told investigators she loved her boyfriend but could not lie for him. She said Johan admitted to her his involvement in the killings.

On the stand more than a year-and-a-half later, Seaton said she was coerced into making those statements. She claimed investigators told her she could see McLucas in the hospital if she did so.

She never saw her friend again.

Tthe case of State of Oregon vs. Johan Gillette began in February 2014 with the death penalty on the table.

In the weeks that would follow, the prosecution would hammer away at Johan's claims of self-defense with physical evidence.

A blood spatter expert theorized the victims were hit several times on the ground.

Clothing, with bleach stains, was also introduced as evidence that seemed to indicate Johan tried to cover up his involvement by cleaning up after the murders.

Johan's defense team painted a much different picture.

One after the other, character witnesses described Johan as a gentle, loving person incapable of the kind of crime he was accused of committing.

His own brother - named after their father - even took the stand, going as far as painting the elder Gillette as the villian.

Then Johan took the stand in his own defense.

He told jurors his father had threatened to kick him and Asia off the property, and that a verbal fight escalated.

He said his father went for a gun as he threatened to kill Johan and his girlfriend. He told the jury he had no choice but to fight back.

"I'm using my left hand to keep him from getting the gun with his right and I'm just trying to punch him with my right hand," he told the court.

As for McLucas, Johan said he thought the person jumping on his back was one of his dad's friends. 

"I was completely focused on my dad and more so on the gun," he told the court. "The only time I remember hitting the other person was when they were on my back or coming towards me."

When asked about allegedly covering up the crime scene, Johan said his memory had gone blank.

The defense rested this week.

Both sides will make their closing statements before turning the case over to a jury to decide.