Kelly McClurg took one shotgun blast to the face and another to the chest in a killing in Wilton last year that the prosecutor said resulted from the theft of just a few pounds of marijuana.
It was all the shooters wanted and it was all they got, Deputy District Attorney Leland Washington told a Sacramento Superior Court jury on Thursday , during opening statements in the murder trial of a couple of Stockton carnival workers, Daniel Joseph Valine and Kailan Joshua James.
Outside the courtroom, Kelly McClurg’s sister, Kim Crebs, could only shake her head.
“He would have given them anything they wanted,” she said. “They didn’t have to do this.”
One of the two most definitely did do it, according to the defendants themselves. Only thing is, Valine’s lawyer says James wielded the weapon, while James in an interview with detectives shoveled the blame for the shooting on his associate at the defense table.
Washington’s opening identified Valine as the gunman but still reserved plenty of responsibility for James for his purported participation in the marijuana ripoff.
According to the DA, Valine, 45, knew McClurg, 60, pretty much his whole life – and called him “Uncle Kelly.” James, 23, also was fairly close with McClurg – close enough, the prosecutor said, to help him trim his pot plants and bag the buds.
“These were people who Kelly trusted,” Washington told the jury, “and these were the people who killed him.”
McClurg, a mechanic and electrician, lived as a caretaker on Dillard Road in rural Wilton. His sister said he raised hogs and sold them for cash. She said he had a medical marijuana certificate to relieve a muscular medical issue in his arms.
“He always had aches and pains,” Crebs said.
In his opening statement, the DA said McClurg didn’t sell his stash, that he kept it for his own use and freely gave pot away to friends and family who dropped by with a six-pack of beer and some time to sit around and chat.
The problem that led to his death began not long before last Oct. 27’s killing, when McClurg enlisted James and his girlfriend, Marissa Valine, the co-defendant’s daughter, to help him harvest his grow.
McClurg gave James and Marissa Valine an eighth-ounce of marijuana bud, but when another eighth turned up missing, he suspected James and Marissa, according to the DA.
Word got back to Danny Valine that McClurg had accused his loved ones of the theft and called them “low-down thieves – low-lifes.”
Danny then got his son, Justin Daniel Valine, 24, another carnival worker, to join him in paying Uncle Kelly a late-night visit – with the banned James joining the two, although hidden in the trunk of their car.
It got past 1 o’clock in the morning, and Danny and his son Justin and Uncle Kelly sat around the kitchen table drinking beer and smoking pot, Washington said. The elder Valine then went out to the car, retrieved a sawed-off shotgun and came back inside and shot McClurg dead, according to the prosecution’s theory of the case.
Washington said James helped out with the theft before the threesome sped off.
“Eventually, they were all captured and the truth unfolded,” Washington told the jury.
Justin Valine has since pleaded no contest to voluntary manslaughter, in exchange for his testimony at trial in which he will identify his father as the shooter.
Danny Valine’s lawyer, Keith Staten, said Justin Valine also will testify there was no robbery plan, that they only went over to Uncle Kelly’s to talk through the issue of the marijuana theft.
Staten said said his client also will take the stand and identify James as the killer.
“The evidence will show that the person who did this, who had the motive and opportunity, the want and the will to kill Kelly McClurg, was Kailan James,” Staten said.
After the killings, James turned up in Arizona with a couple of pounds of weed and a story he told a friend there about him and the Valines splitting up the pot. James also told Sacramento sheriff’s investigators that Danny Valine shot McClurg, according to preliminary hearing testimony.
“He indicated that Justin and he were the primary individuals removing items from the residence,” Detective Paul Belli testified. “Essentially, what he indicated is that Daniel told the both of them to start getting everything together, otherwise they’re going to end up like Kelly.”
James’ attorney, Paris Coleman, will give his opening statement Tuesday in front of Judge Eugene L. Balonon.