Editor’s note: This article contains strong language that some readers may find objectionable.
RIGBY — The first-degree murder trial for Mark Wilson began Monday with the court selecting the jury that will decide his fate.
Wilson, 54, was arrested March 24, 2018, after he reportedly killed his housemate Patricia Brown in Challis. According to court records, the Custer County Sheriff’s Office responded to a 911 call from Wilson around 3:10 p.m. They arrived at the house to find him sitting on the porch.
“I shot Pat,” Wilson reportedly told then Chief Deputy Mike Talbot. He told law enforcement Brown was his friend and he had been drinking that day. Wilson did not answer further questions or agree to an interview after Talbot read his Miranda rights.
Brown, 75, was found dead inside the house, shot in the head with a .22-caliber rifle. Brown, a veteran, was well known in Challis as the commander of the Challis American Legion.
James Archibald, Wilson’s defense attorney, had requested a change in venue for the trial. The trial is being held in Jefferson County due to the fact that much of Challis, a town with just over 1,000 residents, knew Brown.
Archibald and Custer County Prosecutor Justin Oleson had attempted to negotiate a plea bargain, but talks fell through in January.
Oleson decided not to pursue the death penalty against Wilson last year. If convicted, Wilson faces a minimum of 10 years in prison and up to a life sentence.
After picking the jury, the attorneys gave opening statements. Oleson said there was no debate Wilson killed Brown, and the trial would rest on whether he did so with premeditation.
Archibald did not argue with Oleson’s assessment.
“My client, Mark Wilson, killed Pat Brown,” Archibald told the jury.
Archibald asked District Judge Stevan Thompson in April to include explanations in the jury instructions about the definitions of premeditation, the difference between murder, manslaughter and negligent use of a deadly weapon. Archibald also asked the court to allow the jury to find Wilson guilty of a lesser charge, including voluntary or involuntary manslaughter. Thompson told Archibald that if he went with that defense, the court would allow Oleson to bring up Wilson’s 2005 conviction of felony battery.
Archibald said he was not asking the jury to let his client go free, only to consider whether the charge filed by the Custer County Prosecutor’s Office was correct. He said Wilson was confused, drunk and angry the day he shot Brown.
Oleson said the jury would hear evidence showing Wilson did premeditate and plan the murder. He asked the jury to consider each step of the murder, from loading the gun to pointing and pulling the trigger, prompting an objection from Archibald on the grounds it was argument.
The prosecution called four witnesses, starting with Charles Thompson, who was Brown’s neighbor. Thompson said Wilson came to his house the day of the murder and asked to borrow a pistol to shoot stray cats that had been on the property. Thompson said he lent Wilson his .22 rifle. He said Wilson did not seem or smell intoxicated, describing him as “plain, normal Mark.”
Both Custer County Sheriff Stuart Lumpkin and Talbot, who has since retired, described arriving at the scene, arresting Wilson and finding Brown in the basement. Lumpkin said she was still alive and called an ambulance, but they were unable to treat her.
Oleson also called Custer County Dispatcher Linda Lumpkin, who testified Wilson admitted to the murder on the phone. Oleson played the 911 call, and Wilson can be heard admitting to the murder to a shocked Lumpkin.
“Linda, it’s Pat Brown. I shot and killed her,” Wilson said in the recording.
Lumpkin kept Wilson on the line, telling him to wait on the porch for law enforcement. She told the court she knew Brown and Wilson personally, and told Wilson to explain himself.
“You’re going to have to tell me what happened Mark. I think you owe me that much,” Lumpkin is heard saying.
Wilson, however, refused to say why he shot Brown, telling Lumpkin “shit happens.”
The trial is expected to three to five days.