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Medical examiner: Victim was under influence of drugs at time of death


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PROVO -- A Lehi man accused of gunning down his own uncle returned to court Monday to face murder charges. Courtroom testimony revealed the victim was under the influence of drugs when he was shot to death.

It has been more than six months ago now since Colton Louder was arrested and charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of his uncle. On Monday, a judge ruled there is enough evidence against Louder for him to stand trial.

The shooting happened in Pleasant Grove on Feb. 27 after Louder was chased out of his grandparent's garage by his uncle. In court, the medical examiner testified that Louder's uncle, Jeffery Ackerman, was shot a total of six times. He also testified that Ackerman had high levels of methamphetamine in his system at the time of his death, but that he died as a result of the gunshot wounds.

The medical examiner's findings may give the defense an argument that Louder acted in self-defense when he opened fire after being chased through a vacant field by Ackerman.

Prosecutors acknowledge they are still willing to discuss a plea deal with Louder's defense, but they are also pushing forward with the murder case.

"We decided to hold the preliminary hearing because we want to keep this case going, but we are still actively involved in plea discussions with the defense," said prosecutor David Sturgill. "There is always the possibility it might get resolved this way by way of a preliminary hearing. It might not go to trial, but we wanted to keep this case going forward."

Louder previously turned down a plea bargain offer and has been found competent to stand trial. There have been indications that Louder was also under the influence of drugs at the time of the shooting, but prosecutors did not present that specific evidence in court Monday.

Now that Louder has been ordered to stand trial, the two sides will either work out a plea deal or the case will be set for a jury trial on the first-degree murder charge when Louder returns to court on Oct. 6.

E-mail: spenrod@ksl.com

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Sam Penrod

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