By Jim Hannah
The Cincinnati Enquirer
LEXINGTON - The credibility of the prosecution's star witness came under attack Friday in the trial of Adele Craven.
Russell "Rusty" McIntire made up his story that Ms. Craven participated in the killing of her husband in order to make a deal and avoid the death penalty, said defense attorney Linda A. Smith of Florence.
In two days of cross-examination, the defense attacked Mr. McIntire's version of events in the death of Stephen Craven.
Friday afternoon, Ms. Craven's defense team asked for a mistrial and for the charges to be dismissed.
"We contend McIntire is not only not credible, he is incompetent," Ms. Smith said during a hearing in which the jury was not present. "He seems to lack the capacity to comprehend even our basic questions."
She said the 34-year-old Erlanger man was under the influence of medication, has never been examined by a psychiatrist, and testifies to whatever he thinks is expedient.
"He is incapable of speaking the truth," Ms. Smith said.
Her remarks came after Mr. McIntire stepped down after 2‡ days of testimony.
Mr. McIntire was polite and soft-spoken as he outlined his version of the killing while being questioned by prosecutor Christina Brown of the Attorney General's office earlier in the week.
Mr. McIntire testified on Wednesday that Ms. Craven, 37, conspired to have her husband killed. Prosecutors say they planned in detail to commit the murder, with Ms. Craven using the sentence, "Honey, the ferret is loose," to lure her husband into a basement ambush.
The plan, the prosecution argues, would allow Mr. McIntire and Ms. Craven to live together with the money she would receive from her husband's $500,000 life insurance policy. Mr. Craven was a pilot for Delta Air Lines.
The defense says Ms. Craven was trying to patch things up with her husband and that a jealous Mr. McIntire acted alone in the crime.
Mr. Craven, the father of two sons, was found beaten and shot to death in the basement of his Edgewood home on July 12, 2000.
In an earlier trial, Ronald Scott Pryor, 35, of Independence was found guilty of being the triggerman. The state says Mr. McIntire and Ms. Craven hired Mr. Pryor to kill Mr. Craven for a reported $15,000.
Under cross-examination by Ms. Craven's other defense attorney, Deanna Dennison of Covington, Mr. McIntire's demeanor changed and he often said he couldn't recall aspects of the attack.
Ms. Dennison questioned how Mr. McIntire knew certain details of the crime if he locked himself in a bathroom of the Craven home and turned on the water so he could not hear or see the fatal attack, as he had previously testified.
"How do you know Mr. Pryor hit Stephen with the crowbar first, before he shot him?" she asked Mr. McIntire.
He responded: "Because that was the plan."
She then asked how Mr. McIntire could know that Ms. Craven handed Mr. Pryor the gun used in the killing and ordered him to finish the job. Mr. McIntire didn't give a direct answer to the question.
The defense asked Judge Patricia Summe to rule prosecutorial misconduct after the prosecution implied before the jury that Ms. Craven's decision not to speak with police during the homicide investigation suggested guilt.
Ms. Smith asked the judge to drop all charges against her client, saying another trial would be like trying Ms. Craven twice.
The judge agreed the prosecution should not have insinuated Ms. Craven's decision not to cooperate was sign of her guilt, but decided to continue with the trial.
Ms. Smith said that without the testimony of Mr. McIntire, the prosecution is left without a case.
She said all the other prosecution witnesses could only testify about Ms. Craven's affair with Mr. McIntire and some statements she made about the state of her marriage.
The prosecution has so far called 12 witnesses, but is far from resting its case. Ms. Craven will take the stand in her own defense at some point in the trial, her attorney said in Monday's opening arguments.
If convicted of murder, Ms. Craven, the mother of two sons, 6 and 8 when the killing took place, could face the death penalty. Mr. Pryor has already been found guilty and awaits sentencing in December. He could receive the death penalty.
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