Jurors were selected and opening arguments heard in the murder trial of Michael Russian, accused of killing a man and later found pushing the body through downtown Paducah in a shopping cart.
Russian, 37, appeared in McCracken Circuit Court on Monday, where he faces murder and tampering with physical evidence charges resulting from the slaying of 25-year-old Adam Bullock on June 29, 2012. Russian was arrested two days later after Paducah police found him pushing Bullock's concealed body along Burnett Street in a shopping cart.
Monday marked day one of the four-day trial after Russian was declared mentally competent to stand trial back in June. With a jury seated by midday, Circuit Judge Craig Clymer opted to begin proceedings following opening arguments.
Assistant Commonwealth Attorney Guthrie Allen told jurors the evidence they will see in the coming days is enough to unequivocally find Russian guilty on the charges presented while defense attorney Jamey Mills asked jurors to consider outside circumstances that could have led to a possible heat of the moment homicide.
"Michael Russian unquestionably killed Adam Bullock, and unquestionably tampered with physical evidence," Mills told jurors. "I'm not here to insult anyone's intelligence. I'm not here to prove there's smoke and mirrors, I want to be clear about that fact: Michael Russian killed Adam Bullock.
"The question is why did Michael Russian kill Adam Bullock."
Mills argued Russian was overcome with emotions when Bullock arrived at Russian's Anderson Court apartment on June 29, looking for Russian's girlfriend, April Darnell. Darnell and Russian's 14-year-old daughter were in the apartment's upstairs bedrooms at the time, but were asked to stay inside the rooms by Russian.
Bullock reportedly told Russian that Darnell was leaving with him and started upstairs when Russian struck Bullock in the back of the head repeatedly with a 10-pound dumbbell and strangled him with a boot lace.
The prosecution called Dr. Amy Burrows, the forensic pathologist who autopsied Bullock, to testify to the bodily harm inflicted.
Despite the body's condition after being kept in a storage shed behind Russian's apartment during two 100-plus degree days, Burrows stated it was clear the five blows to the head weren't enough to kill Bullock outright. Burrows said had Bullock been rushed to a hospital there was a chance he may have survived.
Ultimately the cause of death was from strangulation, as was indicated by a ligature mark around Bullock's neck, Burrows said, and which investigators attributed to a boot lace found tossed away in a dumpster at the apartment complex. Burrows said she found no defensive wounds.
Upon cross-examination by Mills, Burrows said a toxicology report - completed using decomposition fluid in the chest - did find quantities of methamphetamine, amphetamine and alcohol in Bullock's body. Burrows said Bullock was under the influence of methamphetamine and likely had a blood alcohol level of about .1 percent at the time of the altercation.
Paducah police detectives testified to the circumstances in which Russian was found two days later pushing the shopping cart, and that despite apparent efforts to bleach the apartment, blood splatter was located in the stairwell, landing and throughout the storage unit.
Court reconvenes today as Darnell and additional witnesses are expected to testify about Russian's behavior.
Contact Will Pinkston, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8676 or follow @WCPinkston on Twitter.