Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

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July 7, 2014

Murder trial slows at times

bporterfield@pvdemocrat.com — A few tears and a bunch of long and detailed testimony on evidence were all part of Thursday’s continuing murder trial for an Elmore City man. Not a lot of courtroom drama for later in the second day of testimony in the trial for Justin Hammer, 32.

Hammer has admitted to using a shotgun in his home to kill Brandon Duran back on Aug. 7, 2012. He also confessed to then cutting the dead man’s body into a number of pieces, 25 in all, which Hammer attempted to conceal at the bottom of a farm pond on his property.

The defendant has maintained from the beginning he acted in self defense. One of Thursday’s witnesses was Marvin Akers, a former agent with the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation. Much of Akers’ testimony centered on a search of Hammer’s home outside of Elmore City and all the items found at the site. Jennifer Austin, an assistant district attorney from Norman, led Akers through a slow process of questioning as a way of getting a number of items admitted into evidence for the eight-man, four-woman jury.

It was Akers who testified at a hearing last year that Hammer, during questioning after Duran’s death, admitted to killing him and then attempted to dispose of the body. The former agent testified Thursday on a variety of areas in the investigation, including the discovery of the containers holding Duran’s body parts. A handful of agencies were brought in to help with the draining of the pond on property belonging to Hammer’s father, who also owns the house where the defendant lived and Duran’s killing occurred.

“As the water drained off I saw a white bucket appear,” Akers said. In all five of the buckets and a dog cage were found at the bottom of the pond with each holding body parts. “Inside was a torso cut in two,” he said about the dog cage.

Authorities were led to the site by Van Emblom, a longtime friend of Hammer. It was Emblom who described being contacted by Hammer the night of the killing.

Emblom testified Hammer admitted to shooting Duran and cutting his body into pieces. He told jurors the horror he felt when he saw the buckets and blood as Hammer asked for help in disposing of the body. Emblom described the fear he has felt ever since being told that Hammer had made threats against him only a few

weeks after Duran’s death.

“I heard he was threatening to kill me and my family,” he said. “I was extremely worried, worried someone would pop up and harm me.”

Emblom was emotional when later asked his thoughts on his former friend.

“I loved him, I loved his family, his kids called me Uncle Van,” Emblom said with tears. “I spent more time with him than just about anyone.”

In early testimony Candy Wilson, a Norman attorney who represented Duran at a child custody hearing here in December 2011, said Hammer was very threatening. At the hearing Duran was given custody of the child as Amber Andrews, the former spouse of Duran, was accompanied by her boyfriend at the time, Hammer.

“As we were exiting Justin Hammer said to my client that he had better watch his back,” Wilson said. “The tone of the statement kind of shook me,” she said. “I told Brandon to go get his son and get out of this town.”

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