Huber trial begins; Delbert Huber, Debra Larson take stand, 911 call played
WILLMAR -- The trial of Timothy Huber, for his role in the murder of Timothy Larson, began Thursday with testimony from Larson's widow, Debra, and from Huber's father, Delbert, who is already in prison for the October 2011 killing of the Albertville man.
Prosecutors also played an audio recording of the 911 call that Delbert Huber made to report the killing to Kandiyohi County dispatch about 12 hours after he had shot and killed Larson on Larson's father's property in northern Kandiyohi County.
Timothy Huber, 47, of rural Paynesville, is standing trial on first- and second-degree murder charges in the case. He and his father were indicted on the charges for killing Larson, 43, on Oct. 8, 2011, after a confrontation over allegedly stolen money and tractor parts and alleged vandalism of the Hubers' farm tractors.
Jury selection began Monday, and Thursday was the first day of testimony. The trial continues today and is expected to last about two weeks before District Judge Donald M. Spilseth in Kandiyohi County District Court. Fischer and assistant county attorneys Dain Olson and Chris Jensen are prosecuting the case. Huber is represented by two public defenders, Stephen Ferrazzano and Carter Greiner.
Delbert Huber testified for about two hours Thursday afternoon. Wearing orange prison clothing, the 82-year-old man was wheeled to the witness stand in a wheelchair.
As he did in his own plea hearing in August, Delbert Huber continued to maintain that his gun went off accidentally and that his son had nothing to do with the killing.
The elder Huber was sentenced to 367 months in prison, the maximum possible sentence for second-degree murder. As part of a plea agreement, the first-degree indictment against Delbert Huber was dismissed.
The elder Huber testified that his son told him that Tim Larson had threatened Tim Huber the night prior to the killing, and that Delbert took the threat to mean that Larson was going to kill Huber and his son. In response, Delbert Huber cleaned and oiled his gun before the Hubers drove back to the Larson property in rural Belgrade early the next morning.
"He (Larson) was going to 'do us in' and that meant killing us," the elder Huber said. "I took my rifle along for protection, figuring that he was going to shoot us. It went off accidentally."
Kandiyohi County Attorney Jenna Fischer questioned Huber's account that the shooting was accidental, noting that the county had the rifle tested for accidental discharge. The testing showed that the gun is not capable of accidentally firing, and that 5.25 pounds of force is required to pull the trigger.
Huber also said that Tim Larson was harassing him and his son by shining lights in the windows at night, turning the lights on in the Hubers' barn at night, by cutting fences so that cattle could roam free and by slashing vehicle tires. He said the harassment was happening because the Hubers had told Tim Larson that he could no longer hunt on the Hubers' land. "He did lots of stuff to harass us," Huber said. "It must have been him. He was mad at us."
Under cross-examination by Carter Greiner, Tim Huber's defense attorney, the elder Huber denied that he was paranoid or that the harassment was in his own imagination.
Delbert Huber also said that he never hit his son or even had to teach the boy how to obey him and his now-deceased wife. Huber said his only son automatically learned to obey and "no, I never did give him a licking."
The defense attorneys questioned the father regarding several witness they say will later testify that Delbert Huber beat his son, including hitting him in the head with a baseball bat.
The elder Huber said he "pretty well" had control over his son, to which Fischer countered by asking if Delbert Huber had control over his son of the day of the murder.
Debra Larson, Tim Larson's widow, was the first witness called to the stand Thursday. She described her husband as an outdoorsy man who played "about every sport" who was always going so much that she couldn't keep up with him.
Under questioning by Fischer, Larson described the last time she talked with her husband, the evening before he was shot. The 11-minute call included Tim Larson telling her that he had told Tim Huber that two of his friends were coming to the place to hunt the next day, in an effort, she assumed, to get Huber off the property. Debra Larson also said she knew one of the men was out of state at the time.
The elder Huber, during his testimony, said that he "figured" Tim Larson was going to shoot him and "I figured the other guys have guns" too. He also claimed, as he did at his own sentencing, that someone else shot Larson that day and that the person then fled the country.
Based on Tim Huber's cell phone records and the county's investigation, the younger Huber made and received several phone calls on the day Larson was killed, helped a neighbor hang siding and selling a demolition derby car to another man, according to the opening statement made by Assistant County Attorney Dain Olson. He did not call authorities to report the shooting death.
The 911 call, made by Delbert Huber, around 7:30 p.m. on the day of the killing, was played for the jury. During the call, Huber tells the dispatcher that he shot and killed a person earlier in the day and that the gun went off during an argument. When the dispatcher asked if the person who was shot is dead, Huber responded with "yeah, he's dead."
The dispatcher continued to talk to Huber, asking him to remain on the line until deputies arrived, and was told by Huber that someone put antifreeze in the tractors, that Norman Larson was out-of-state at a wedding, that Huber had shot Timothy Larson in the chest, that there was missing money and also tractor parts and that Tim Huber had nothing to do with the shooting. The dispatcher even asked Huber about his wife, and Huber said she had died of cancer the year before. The dispatcher also offered Huber an ambulance after Huber said he had heart problems.
County dispatcher Darin Schirmers testified that, using a cell phone number in the dispatch records, he called Tim Huber to verify that Delbert Huber's call was not a prank call and to get more information about the presence of weapons at the scene for officer safety.
That call, from Schirmers to Tim Huber, was also played for the jury. During the call, Tim Huber said that Tim Larson had threatened him, confirmed that Delbert had shot Tim Larson and that the shooting "was between them, I had nothing to do with it."