There's no dispute that Timothy Scott Meskimen killed Edgar Hurst during a night of heavy drinking at a makeshift campsite along North Broadway near Interstate 75 in spring 2010.
But what jurors will have to decide is whether it was murder or self-defense.
Prosecutors say that Meskimen attacked Hurst after he got upset at the way a bottle of Kentucky Gentleman bourbon was being passed around a campfire. The two men were sharing the whiskey with Meskimen's girlfriend, Donna Franklin.
Defense attorney Christopher Tracy disputed that.
"Ed Hurst did die by Tim Meskimen's hand, but not on purpose and not without rhyme or reason," Tracy said Tuesday in his opening statement in Meskimen's trial in Fayette Circuit Court.
Meskimen and Hurst began fighting after Hurst, "out of the blue," said, "What about when I kill you and have my way with your woman?" Tracy told jurors. Meskimen took the threat as real, and the two men began scuffling, with Hurst pulling a utility knife on Meskimen, Tracy said.
Meskimen "laid into" Hurst, "and he laid into him big time," Tracy said.
In addition to murder, Meskimen, whom police have described as a drifter, is charged with tampering with physical evidence, trespassing and intoxication. Meskimen, 39, who is called "Alabama," was arrested in April 2010.
Hurst, 50, whose nickname was "Cincinnati," had left his mother's home on Northridge Drive on March 27, 2010, to buy cigarettes after watching a University of Kentucky-West Virginia basketball game on TV and never returned, prosecutor Corey Lee told the jury. Hurst, who had an alcohol problem, had lived with his mother, Carolyn Ingram, for two months, Lee said.
Hurst's body was found several days later in a shallow grave covered with a black door near North Broadway. He had face and skull fractures and ligature marks around his neck, Lee said.
Meskimen and Hurst met when Meskimen was on his way back to the campsite after buying whiskey and cigarettes at a liquor store, Tracy said. Hurst was sitting along the interstate in the rain, he said.
"Alabama didn't know this man, and Cincinnati didn't know him," Tracy said.
Meskimen, thinking Hurst might get arrested by police, invited Hurst to hang out at the campsite, Tracy said.
Sometime later, after an incident at the Sportsman Motel on Winchester Road, Franklin told police that Meskimen killed Hurst. Franklin was staying at the motel at the time, according to opening statements. Meskimen was arrested on the trespassing and intoxication charges at the motel. He was taken to Good Samaritan Hospital for a bump on his head that turned out to be a hairline fracture, Lee said.
Tracy said Meskimen spent "multiple" days in the hospital, including two days in intensive care.
The trial continues Wednesday.