GALLUP — John Mayes beat Dr. James Nordstrom to death with a pool cue stick inside the doctor's home two and a half years ago, prosecutors and defense attorneys said during Mayes' trial.

Today, 12 jurors will deliberate whether or not Mayes' actions make him guilty of murder.

John Mayes, the 20-year-old son of the Farmington city manager, is on trial in Gallup. He is charged with murder, aggravated burglary and other felonies in connection to Nordstrom's death. Prosecutors and defense attorneys finished closing arguments Thursday evening, and the jury will return today for deliberations.

Prosecutors argued that what happened June 9, 2011 -- the day that Nordstrom died -- was a burglary gone bad, and Mayes should be found guilty of first-degree murder, which carries a life sentence.

John Mayes waits for his trial to begin on Thursday at the Eleventh Judicial District Court of New Mexico in Gallup.
John Mayes waits for his trial to begin on Thursday at the Eleventh Judicial District Court of New Mexico in Gallup. (Jon Austria/The Daily Times)

Mayes' attorneys said their client acted in self-defense from an unwanted sexual advance the doctor made against him during a game of pool.

During closing arguments, Chief Deputy District Attorney Brent Capshaw said the self-defense story was nothing more than Mayes' attempt to manipulate a jury. And, Capshaw said, that only served to damage the victim's reputation.

"How did Nordstrom get indicted? Why is he on trial? He's just a victim, and now he's being victimized again by this manipulator right here," Capshaw said, pointing at Mayes. "A kid said Jerry Sandusky molested him, and 10 more kids came out of the woodwork. No kids came out of the woodwork here."

Jeffrey Buckels, one of Mayes' attorneys, said in his closing argument that police botched aspects of the investigation. He argued that Mayes' polygraph test -- where Mayes said the doctor invited him into his home, they played pool together and he never hid in Nordstrom's bedroom -- is enough to create reasonable doubt.

"If you heard something in here that makes you stop for a minute and think about it, you just found (Mayes) not guilty," he said. "Mayes doesn't have to prove a thing."

Throughout Mayes' trial, which started last week, attorneys have presented two stories to the jury pertaining to the circumstances surrounding Nordstrom's death. The first story came from Mayes' interviews with investigators after he was arrested driving the doctor's truck in Farmington on June 10, 2011.

Mayes told police that he ran away from home the day before and headed north to Farmington Foothills neighborhood. He said he hid behind a woodpile until dark, and then entered the doctor's home through a bedroom window.

There, Mayes said he armed himself with a pool cue stick and waited for Nordstrom to finish watching TV. When the doctor neared his bedroom, Mayes attacked by surprise, according Mayes' interview with investigators.

Farmington City Manager Rob Mayes and his wife, Carol, listen to a testimony from Christopher Alexander, a forensic psychologist, on Thursday at the
Farmington City Manager Rob Mayes and his wife, Carol, listen to a testimony from Christopher Alexander, a forensic psychologist, on Thursday at the Eleventh Judicial District Court of New Mexico in Gallup. The couple's son, John Mayes, is on trial in Gallup, accused of murdering a Farmington doctor. (Jon Austria/The Daily Times)

At his preliminary hearing two months after his arrest, Mayes took the stand and said the doctor invited him into his house. He said that once in the house, the two watched TV and shot pool. That's when Mayes said the doctor came onto him, touching his shoulder and provoking Mayes to attack.

"There was provocation, and Mayes went too far," Buckels said. "That's manslaughter, not murder."

Jury instructions for the open count of murder charge direct jurors to first determine if Mayes committed first-degree murder. If they find he didn't commit that crime, jurors will consider second-degree murder. And if they find Mayes didn't commit that, they will consider manslaughter.

Buckels' closing argument focused on potential problems with the police investigation.

Police never confiscated prescription pill bottles found near the doctor's chair or a computer found in his bedroom, he told jurors. He also said Nordstrom's friends went through the crime scene for a couple of hours before calling police.

Buckels said police didn't let Rob and Carol Mayes parents see their son during his interrogation. And, Buckels said, that's when Mayes told police what they wanted to hear to get the "torture" to stop.

The doctor's black sleeveless shirt was found in the kitchen without any blood, and Buckels said that strengthens Mayes' second story because he accused the doctor of taking his shirt off during a game of pool.

And, Buckels said, Mayes truthfully answered a polygraph test, saying that he played pool with the doctor.

Assistant District Attorney John Beckstead said the timeline of events and other details of Mayes' second story don't make sense. He told the jury that Mayes said the doctor was washing his car when he arrived at 8 p.m., but Nordstrom had told friends all day he was excited to watch a basketball game.

Beckstead pointed out that the doctor's truck was dirty the next day when Mayes was driving it. And Nordstrom was protective of his property and ordered strangers away, he said.

"It's endless with (Mayes). The story is going to continue to evolve the more he tells it," Capshaw said. "Which version is it? Can you give us one so we can pick it apart?"

Ryan Boetel covers crime for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-46444 and rboetel@daily-times.com. Follow him @rboetel on Twitter.