SAN ANTONIO – UPDATE: Earl James Otter has been found guilty of manslaughter in the shooting death of his girlfriend, Abigail Winters, after the jury deliberated for nine hours.
The punishment phase for the trial begins Friday. Otter faces two to 20 years in prison.
Defense attorneys and prosecutors agreed on just one thing during closing arguments Thursday in the murder trial of Earl James Otter: a struggle between the defendant and his 37-year-old girlfriend, Abigail Winters, preceded her shooting death.
"Yeah, there was," prosecutor Leslie Rodriguez told the jury. "It was Abigail's struggle. She fought for her life."
But Otter's lawyer, Orlando Castanon, insisted that Winter's death was an accident.
"When she was standing in the middle of the room ... struggled, hands crossed, pushed ... the gun goes off," Castanon said while holding a gun in his hand.
The struggle occurred May 18, 2016, in a home the couple shared in the suburban San Antonio community of Live Oak.
Prosecutor Josh Somers asked the jury to dismiss the accidental shooting theory.
"Abigail Winters did not fall back and a firearm accidentally discharge point blank in her neck. That is ridiculous!" Somers said.
Somers said the gun had a safety feature and reminded the jury of something Otter's friends said he told them.
"'I shot and killed her,' Those were Earl Otter's words to his own friends Alicia and Mike," Somers said.
Prosecutors called the couple's relationship "toxic" and the shooting a murder.
The most powerful testimony, Rodriguez said, came on day one of the trial from Winter's 8-year-old daughter.
"'My daddy killed my mommy,'" Rodriguez said, as she reminded the jury of the child's statement to police. "That's the first thing that she says to the first person that she sees."
If Otter, 50, is found guilty on a murder charge, he could face a maximum punishment of life in prison.