Moments before Kereti Paulsen was killed by an arrow fired from a high-powered crossbow in a South Jersey backyard, he waved a hypodermic needle and lunged at Timothy Canfield, the archer, Canfield's lawyer told a jury Wednesday.
Jeffrey Zucker gave that account as Canfield's unusual murder trial began in a Camden County courtroom. He called the 2013 shooting self-defense.
Camden County Assistant Prosecutor Lauren Pratter offered a starkly different version, saying Canfield killed Paulsen using a bow and arrow "he had used many times on prey in the woods."
The trial is expected to have drama. Canfield, 30, of Berlin Borough, plans to take the stand to describe the shooting. The prosecutor is expected to show a video of a witness shooting a pig carcass with an arrow to demonstrate that Canfield's account is not plausible based on the puncture wound that killed him. The jury was warned about the footage, but no other details were provided.
Zucker said Paulsen was a violent heroin addict who had threatened Canfield's girlfriend and her family at their home in Berlin Borough. Paulsen had warned family members he was HIV-positive and threatened to stab them with one of his syringes, Zucker has said.
"Mr. Canfield was scared to death of Mr. Paulsen," Zucker told the jury, adding that a syringe and 18 bags of narcotics were found close to the body. Zucker said Paulsen had also burglarized the home.
Pratter painted a different picture of the confrontation. She said that soon after Paulsen appeared in the backyard of the house Canfield was living in with his girlfriend's family, Canfield went upstairs to get his bow and arrow and went outside.
"He drew back his bow and fired a single arrow into Kereti, and that arrow ripped through Kereti's body, tore through an artery in his stomach, and that's murder," she said.
Paulsen, 25, formerly of Cape May Courthouse, N.J., died shortly after the 10 p.m. shooting.
The incident started when Paulsen came to the house and got into a fistfight with a man who was visiting Trish Dulin, Paulsen's former girlfriend. Dulin lived with her parents, her older sister, Ashley Dulin, and her boyfriend, Canfield, and two children.
Paulsen had been stalking Trish Dulin and police were called to the house several times. She told police the couple had a 16-month-old baby together but they had been estranged for some time before the fistfight occurred.
The fracas brought the family outside, but after it ended, the others went back inside, leaving Paulsen alone in the backyard, the prosecutor said. That's when Canfield went for his weapon and went "outside looking for Kereti," she said.
Afterward, Canfield concealed the arrows in the attic and drove to Winslow, where he hid the bow in a woods. He also lied to police when he was first questioned.
Zucker said Canfield had panicked. Hours later, Canfield cooperated with police and retrieved the bow and arrows. He also gave a videotaped statement.
Canfield was not "an avid hunter" as the prosecutor contended, but had used the crossbow for target shooting, Zucker said. A syringe was found on the ground near Paulsen's body when police arrived.
A neighbor had heard Paulsen crying for help and called 911. Paulsen was still breathing when the EMS squad arrived but died at a hospital soon afterward.
His parents and several other relatives and friends attended the trial, which is being heard by state Superior Court Judge Richard Wells. Paulsen's mother sobbed quietly. She declined comment. The trial is expected to continue for several weeks.
Canfield is also charged with the possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, hindering apprehension, and tampering with a witness.
Ashley Dulin,who is now Canfield's wife, is also standing trial on a single charge of tampering. The couple allegedly attempted to persuade Vincent DiFilippis, the man Paulsen attacked in the backyard, to support Canfield's self-defense story.
The prosecutor said DiFilippis, of Marlton, informed law enforcement in July 2016 that Canfield and Dulin had approached him to ask him to go along with their account.
Canfield and Dulin are out on bail. They have a 5-year-old child.