Defense begins in capital murder trial of man accused of triple homicide

Adrian Hargrove’s defense team began laying out their case Friday in hope of convincing the jury to find Hargrove guilty but mentally ill.

Hargrove, 36, is standing trial in Richmond County Superior Court in the Feb. 9, 2008, slayings of 18-year-old Allyson Peder­son and her parents, Sharon and Andrew Hartley.

After four days of bringing in witnesses and physical evidence tying Hargrove to the brutal slayings, Dis­trict Attorney Ashley Wright rested the state’s case Friday morning.

Lead defense attorney Newell Hamilton told the jury Monday in his opening statement that Hargrove wasn’t contesting his guilt. The defense team contends that a childhood filled with violence left Hargrove with post-traumatic stress and schizoaffective disorders.

Several of Hargrove’s relatives told the jury Friday what they saw of his life growing up with a father described as a violent alcoholic.

Priscilla Hargrove Allen said Hargrove’s father, Steve Hargrove, “turned out to be like my daddy, a violent drunk who beat his wife,”

Hargrove’s mother and father fought by hitting and punching after they started drinking, and they drank most days, Margie Hargrove Oglesby said.

She said Hargrove was often left with his grandparents. Oglesby said she and her mother tried to make up for the lack of parenting.

Hargrove’s cousin, Teresa Leverette, testified that she spent a lot of time with him growing up. She spent most weekends at her grandparents, too. He was odd as a child, she said. He would talk to himself and sit and stare into space. He never played games with the other children because he could never follow the rules, Leverette said.

Hargrove’s father was killed by a law enforcement officer July 4, 1997, and his grandmother, who was rushed to the hospital that night, died a week later. Hargrove was hysterical, Leverette said.

“He didn’t care about anything anymore. He really lost it,” she said.

But Hargrove’s mother, Linda Maxwell, testified that he had a good childhood. She called herself a good mother who shielded her son from his father’s violence, fed and clothed him and cared for him.

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