James Sindelar testifies

James Sindelar indicates how he was standing and holding the gun when his son reached for the barrel on the night of Wesley's death. James "JD" Sindelar is on trial for deliberate homicide in the death of his son Wesley Sindelar, 35, in July of 2015 on Thursday in Judge Gregory Todd's courtroom at the Yellowstone County Courthouse.

HANNAH POTES/Gazette Staff

BILLINGS - When he pulled his pistol, James Douglas Sindelar said he expected his son to back off.

Instead, the gun fired, killing 35-year-old Wesley Brian Sindelar.

James Sindelar's trial resumed Thursday afternoon with his testimony about what happened the night his son was shot in the face.

Sindelar, 74, pleaded not guilty in August to one count of deliberate homicide. There is no dispute that Sindelar killed his son at the son's home on July 20.

Wesley's wife, Victoria Sindelar, testified earlier this week that James Sindelar, who was living in a tent on the couple's property, came to their home while the two were arguing. When Wesley told his father he "was done with" him and told his father to "get out of his house," Sindelar pulled a pistol and pointed it at his son’s face.

Victoria said Wesley tried to grab the gun, and in the struggle Sindelar shot his son in the head. Wesley’s children were playing in the yard nearby.

However, James Sindelar presented a different set of circumstances when he testified.

He said Wesley had visited the tent to talk to him at about 6 p.m. that night and brought a few beers with him. The two got into an argument, and Sindelar said his son seemed upset. His son believed he might lose the family land, Sindelar said.

The two argued and Wesley returned home. Later that evening, Sindelar said Victoria's dog, Vinny, came running down the road and seemed scared.

Sindelar put the dog in his truck and grabbed two letters he had written to the couple regarding what he saw as Wesley's drinking problem. He then drove up a short lane to the couple's house.

When he got there, Sindelar said he heard screaming and shouting, sounds he'd never heard before. He said he grabbed his gun from the truck in case he was walking into a bad situation.

When he walked into the house, he said he saw a broken lamp on the floor and Victoria, looking pale, sitting at the dining room table. He said he also saw Wesley screaming with blood running from his hand.

Sindelar said he walked into the house, handed one letter to Wesley and put one next to Victoria on the table. Wesley told him to get out of the house and Sindelar said he stuck his finger in Wesley's face.

Then, Wesley advanced on him. His son was a "big boy," Sindelar said. He said he was scared and pulled his pistol.

Victoria said earlier that Sindelar pointed the gun at Wesley's face. Sindelar said he kept it at his hip.

He expected his son would back off. Instead, Wesley grabbed the gun, Sindelar said. When Wesley grabbed it, he took it in two hands, bent over the gun and in the struggle, pointed the barrel into his own face, Sindelar said.

The two struggled over the weapon before it fired.

As soon as Wesley hit the ground, Sindelar said he knew his son was dead.

He was closer to Wesley than anyone else in the family, Sindelar said. The two were opposites, with Sindelar being the more even headed of the two.

Sindelar said he never meant to kill his son.

The defense called a second witness, Roger Enoka, a professor in the department of medicine at the University of Colorado. Enoka testified about his work studying involuntary contractions. He said the central nervous system can cause a reflex that could discharge a firearm by accident.

Sindelar and the defense experts were the only witnesses called for the defense so far. The trial is expected to go to deliberations on Friday.

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