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Judge to decide today if man charged in May murder will stand trial

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Posted: Wednesday, October 16, 2013 5:40 pm

A judge will decide today whether a Lodi man, who claims to have accidentally shot his friend inside their home in May, should stand trial for murder.

On Wednesday, Richard Welker, 33, appeared in San Joaquin County Superior Court for the second day of a preliminary hearing to listen to additional testimony surrounding the shooting death of 33-year-old Arlie Druen.

Druen died while in an ambulance on the way to a local hospital on May 14 after sustaining two gunshot wounds inside the home he shared with Welker on the 700 block of South Central Avenue in Lodi.

Police later arrested Welker, who is charged with murder, using a firearm in the commission of a felony, intentional and personal discharge of a firearm, and being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm. Welker is currently being held without bail in San Joaquin County Jail.

During the final statements of Wednesday’s hearing, defense attorney Victoria Bossi asked San Joaquin County Superior Court Judge Elizabeth Humphreys to dismiss the murder charge — or, at the very least, reduce the charge to involuntary manslaughter.

Several friends testified on Welker’s behalf, claiming he and Druen were close friends who have never displayed any animosity toward one another.

James Hamiel, a firearms expert with the California Department of Justice who examined the Colt .38 semiautomatic pistol used in Druen’s death, said the gun had a malfunction that could cause it to discharge without pulling the trigger. That malfunction, he said, could even cause the firearm to discharge all the bullets in the magazine.

However, San Joaquin County Deputy District Attorney Jeff Conley presented a possible motive for the shooting, arguing that Welker may have learned that Druen was having an affair with his ex-girlfriend.

“The information could have played a part in the shooting ...,” Conley said during his final argument on Wednesday.

While on the stand Wednesday, Lodi Police Det. Hettie Schaeffer said she re-interviewed Welker’s ex-girlfriend earlier that morning in order to learn more about a statement she made to police several months ago.

The ex-girlfriend told detectives that Druen told her that if Welker ever found out about the affair, he would kill Druen, according to Schaeffer’s testimony.

However, the ex-girlfriend didn’t believe Welker knew about the affair at the time of the shooting, Schaeffer testified.

Contact reporter Kristopher Anderson at krisa@lodinews.com.

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