Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

March 2, 2013

More details come in grisly murder

Barry Porterfield
Pauls Valley Democrat — Just a little bit more is known about a grisly shooting death near Elmore City last summer that resulted in one man's body being dismembered and disposed of in the bottom of a farm pond.

A few more of the details in the case against 31-year-old Justin Hammer came out during a preliminary hearing Thursday in a Garvin County District courtroom.

Hammer is facing a formal charge of first-degree murder with deliberate intent for killing Brandon Duran on the night of Aug. 7, 2012 at Hammer's rural residence northeast of Elmore City.

He then sawed the body into a number of parts and attempted to conceal them in a pond on his own property.

A handful of witnesses took the stand during this week's hearing offering testimony ranging from Hammer's admission of the deadly act and subsequent self-defense claim to the defendant asking a friend to help dispose of the body after it was cut into pieces.

In the end Hammer was bound over to face a jury trial at some point in the future. An arraignment is scheduled for April 26, which is when a trial date is expected to be set.

Among those testifying this week was Marvin Akers, who as an Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation agent got Hammer to confess to killing Duran and then attempting to conceal the body.

"Initially he said he didn't know why he was there," Akers said. "Eventually he said he had shot Brandon Duran in the face with a .410 shotgun."

Hammer's story to the agent was Duran came to his residence on a motorcycle and kicked in his door.

When Duran was 5 to 10 feet away Hammer said he shot Duran, who fell to the floor. Hammer admitted to then dragging the dead Duran into his bathroom, where he used a saw to dismember his body.

"He said he cut the arms, legs and head off the body," Akers testified.

The body parts were then placed in five paint buckets, while a dog cage was used for Duran's turso. During the interview Hammer did tell the agent he disposed of the cage and buckets in a nearby farm pond. The containers with parts of Duran's body were later found when the pond was drained.

According to the OSBI agent, Hammer claimed the trauma of the moment led to him dismembering the body.

"He said he freaked out," Akers said. "That's exactly what he said."

Prosecutors Mark Norman and Tara Portillo had other witnesses offer testimony showing Hammer might have planned out in advance the killing and a way to dispose of Duran's body.

John Law III, manager of the Ace Hardware store in Pauls Valley testified there were two consecutive days in early August last year when Hammer's own Ace rewards card was used to purchase items at the local store.

Among the items were five 5-gallon paint buckets and lids, 10 bags of ready mix concrete, a pair of latex gloves and a gallon of bleach, all items used by Hammer for the body's disposal. Van Emblom, who described himself as Hammer's best friend and more "like a brother," said he received a call from Hammer on the night of Duran's death.

Emblom said his friend made a surprising statement and request when they got to Hammer's residence.

"He said he needed help with some concrete; that he had just shot Brandon," Emblom said." He said, 'I need you to help get rid of the body.’ I looked at him and didn't really believe him. He opened the door and I saw the buckets and lots of blood. I freaked out.”

Emblom said it was fear of what Hammer might do that led to him to build a fire and help Hammer load the five paint buckets and dog cage onto his friend's truck.

"What do you tell someone who had just killed someone and cut them up," Emblom said.

Emblom and another of Hammer's longtime friends, Brian Mathis, testified to previously hearing.

Hammer's girlfriend Amber talk about Duran, her former husband, the physical abuse she claimed to have endured from him and the battle for custody of their young child. Both claimed this happened a number of times and each time it got Hammer very angry at Duran.

During a July 4th gathering last year Emblom said he overheard Hammer make the threat to shoot Duran while laying out his own self-defense for the act.

"He said he would call the cops and say that he shot the guy because he tried to force his way in," Emblom said.

After Duran's death Emblom contacted authorities to report his experience with Hammer.