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VAN BUREN -- A man living with Michael King at his rural home in Rudy in 2016 testified Tuesday that he saw Jeremy Brake shoot King in the chest with a sawed-off shotgun and set his mobile home on fire.

Chad Holsted, who called King his best friend, took the witness stand before a Crawford County Circuit Court jury of nine men and three women in the trial that began Monday against Brake.

Brake, 38, is on trial on charges of first-degree murder, arson, being a felon in possession of a firearm, felony criminal mischief, tampering with evidence, felony endangering the welfare of a minor and committing a felony with a firearm, according to court records.

Holsted said Brake was visiting King's home on the night of Oct. 9, 2016, and sat quietly in a rocking chair until he raised his sawed-off shotgun twice, pointing it at King. The third time he raised the gun, Holsted said, Brake shot King in the chest from less than 10 feet away.

Brake gave no indication he was going to shoot King, Holsted said. There was no fight or argument beforehand and no bad blood between them. But Brake acted "weird" all evening, Holsted said, sitting by himself, not talking and not joining in when Holsted, King and Brake's son, Jeremy Jr., then 17, ate dinner.

After the shooting, Holsted said he asked Brake why he shot King. He said Brake replied '"the bird's got to eat the snake.'" Holsted had no explanation for the remark.

King gasped for air and yelled for someone to call for help after he was shot, Holsted said. He said Brake used a torch-type lighter to set fire to a blanket hanging between the kitchen and the living room.

Holsted, Brake and his son ran out the back door of the home as flames quickly spread. Once outside, Holsted said, Brake picked up a can of gasoline, removed the cap and threw it into the mobile home.

Associate state medical examiner Adam Craig testified that he found a shot cup from a shotgun shell embedded against's King's spine during King's autopsy. He also found what appeared to be shotgun pellets.

A shot cup is the plastic cylinder that encloses the pellets as they are propelled from the gun when fired.

Craig testified that King died from the shotgun wound that damaged his spine, right lung, liver and small intestines. He also said tests of King's blood showed it had 18 percent carbon monoxide, meaning King was alive when the fire started and inhaled smoke before dying.

Holsted said he and the Brakes ran down the road toward a nearby neighbor when Brake darted off into the woods. Holsted said he feared Brake might shoot him and ran back to the burning mobile home.

He went to the home next door where King's sister Linda lived and told her to call 911. No one was able to get into the house to rescue King because of the smoke, heat and flames, Holsted said. He also noted that King weighed about 650 pounds and it would have been difficult to move him.

The jury hadn't reached a verdict by 5 p.m. Tuesday.


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