Prtine testifies in stabbing trial

HIBBING -- Andy Prtine was angry about getting an eviction notice, was behind on his utility payments, and then his drug dealer gave him less cocaine than he agreed to pay for.

Andy Prtine
Andy Prtine

HIBBING -- Andy Prtine was angry about getting an eviction notice, was behind on his utility payments, and then his drug dealer gave him less cocaine than he agreed to pay for.

Prtine was angry and desperate. He needed money and he needed cocaine.

St. Louis County prosecutor Jeff Vlatkovich suggested to jurors Tuesday that those were some of the possible reasons that Prtine stabbed Brent Ward to death at least 63 times in the victim's Hibbing apartment on Nov. 8, 2007.

The men hardly knew each other. Their connection was cocaine. Ward, 45, supplied Prtine.

Prtine, 33, of Hibbing was on the witness stand Tuesday after being indicted by a grand jury in September on two counts of first-degree murder. He said he acted in self-defense and his actions were justifiable homicide.


Defense attorney Jon Rice asked Prtine what he thought Ward would have done if he had control of the knife instead of Prtine.

"He would have killed me," Prtine said.

"Why do you think that?" Rice asked.

"Because of the way he was coming at me," Prtine said. "It was me or him."

Prtine testified that Ward had taken his wallet and his knife as collateral on a drug deal the weekend before the fight. Then, that night, they smoked crack cocaine together. Prtine said he also took OxyContin that day, a morphine-like narcotic intended to relieve chronic pain. Prtine said the drug made him mellow.

On a scale of zero to 10 to describe how affected by drugs he was that night, Prtine said he was at seven.

He said Ward "was a little irritated" that night, but he didn't ask him why. "I would imagine because of cocaine," he said.

Then, for the first time, Prtine offered an explanation of how the fight started. Previously, in a 63-page statement he gave to Hibbing police, he said he didn't remember. He said Ward suddenly punched him in the head to begin the fight.


Prtine testified Tuesday that the fight started because Ward had a tone of voice and got into his face in a way that made him uncomfortable. Prtine said he told Ward, "Don't talk to me that way."

Vlatkovich pointed out that Prtine had never before mentioned saying anything like that to Ward.

Prtine said Ward then punched him on the left side of his head and they fell on the bed with Ward landing on top of him. They were rolling around pounding each other. He said Ward grabbed the knife and they fought for control of it.

Prtine said he couldn't believe what was happening. He was afraid. "He was coming. I was stabbing," the defendant testified. He said he didn't remember the extent of the injuries he inflicted.

They went to the floor two or three times while fighting and Ward's body wound up in the kitchen. Vlatkovich pointed out that Prtine never called anyone to help the victim despite saying that Ward was alive when he left the apartment.

Prtine said he crawled out from beneath Ward and fled. But police said he picked up the knife and its sheath before leaving.

Prtine's DNA was found inside one of Ward's pants pockets, and Vlatkovich accused him of coming to the apartment with the knife to rob Ward. Prtine denied that.

The attorneys will make their closing arguments this morning and Judge David Ackerson will give the jury instructions on the laws to follow in their deliberations, which are expected to start about midday.

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