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10/10/2013 6:00:00 AM
Murder defendant's testimony veers from previous accounts
Philip J. Martin
Philip J. Martin
Doug McMurdo
Miner Staff Reporter

KINGMAN - Philip John Martin lived like a hermit in his singlewide trailer on Elgin Road in a neighborhood that is considered isolated even by Golden Valley standards.

He had no electricity and lived a simple life, off the grid.

The accused killer, 61, is a talented artist who spent his days painting, playing the guitar, and polishing rocks he found in the desert.

As an artist, he made enough money to support his austere lifestyle, and that was all he ever wanted. He even spent quite a bit of time in Hawaii, where he painted the scenic beauty of the islands and prints of those paintings were sold in souvenir shops.

So said his sister, Donna Ristow, a financial services representative in Lake Havasu City.

Martin's isolated lifestyle came to an abrupt end on Oct. 18, 2012, when he shot Steven Jeffery Schwartz, 55, an unarmed neighbor who had come onto his property that day.

Martin fired a single 12-guage shotgun shell through a window while standing in his living room about 45 feet from where Schwartz was walking up his driveway.

The double-ought buckshot tore through Schwartz's abdomen, shredding his liver and one of his kidneys. Six of the nine pellets that were in the shell passed through his body. Three of them did not.

The medical examiner was able to recover two of them. The third pellet was embedded in the dead man's spine.

Martin took the stand in his own defense Wednesday and offered a starkly different story than what he told the Mohave County Sheriff's Office detective sergeant who interviewed him the night of the killing.

His testimony also differed from what eyewitness Brian Knaak told jurors on Tuesday, and what he told Ristow and a neighbor who came to visit him in the Mohave County jail last January.

For instance, he told Ristow he fired a warning shot. He acknowledged on the stand he never did. He told a neighbor that both Schwartz and Knaak - Schwartz's longtime friend who lived in a fifth-wheeler on Schwartz's property - ran up his driveway and then huddled together.

He said he ordered the men off his property and said, "I'm armed, you idiots," and that Knaak retreated to his vehicle in the road while Schwartz kept coming.

He told the neighbor it looked like "military logistics" to him and he figured they were there to do him harm.

Knaak on Tuesday and again on Wednesday testified he never entered Martin's property and that he stayed in his truck with the motor running.

Knaak said once he saw the muzzle flash in the window of Martin's trailer and saw Schwartz fall to the ground, he put his truck in reverse and fled the scene. He dialed 9-1-1 seconds later.

A neighbor, Carl Martin, no relation, essentially confirmed Knaak's version of events.

He testified he and his wife were sitting on their front porch when they heard a gun shot that sounded like it came from the rear of their property in the direction of Martin's home.

Carl Martin said he got up to look and saw Knaak's black truck driving in reverse. A few minutes later Martin, who has not owned a telephone in the roughly 27 years he has lived on the property, arrived at the Martin home and asked them to call for an ambulance, that he had just shot a man, and to "get them here quick."

Under questioning from his attorney, Martin said crime is high in Golden Valley. He also said his property has been burglarized at least twice, and that on another occasion he was assaulted.

But he also had a dispute with Schwartz because he had a habit of placing railroad ties across Elgin Road.

Knaak testified that Schwartz only wanted to talk to Martin about the debris in the road that day. He left his .45-caliber handgun in his Jeep.

"I put out dead-end signs on sawhorses and he ran them over. He got bent out of shape about it," said Martin of the dispute. "I was a little worried about the guy. He didn't seem to like me and he let me know it."

Martin also told jurors that on two prior occasions, Schwartz drove onto his property and played his Jeep's radio, harassing him. He said he fired a warning shot.

Under cross-examination by prosecutor James Schoppmann, Martin said he knew Schwartz had bad intentions "by the look on his face," but he shot him from 45 feet away and Schwartz never said a word.

Schoppmann focused on Martin's attempts to block the road when he got the defendant to admit Schwartz had a right to be in front of his house and he had the right to walk past his no trespassing sign and "ask him what the hell you were doing."

Closing arguments will occur this morning. Martin faces a charge of first-degree murder and other counts.

Jurors must decide if Martin is guilty of first-degree murder of if he was justified in killing Schwartz.

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Related Stories:
• Man who shot his neighbor gets a new trial
• Golden Valley shotgun slaying nets 16 years
• 'I shot Steve. I went and reloaded.'
• Last words ID Golden Valley gunman, MCSO says

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