MARTINEZ -- A defense attorney told jurors Monday that Pinole native Brian Fitch killed his lifelong best friend Jeff McCoy in self-defense, while a prosecutor said a paranoid Fitch had long planned the murder, believing McCoy was one of several friends having sex with his wife.
What the jury didn't hear during opening statements at Fitch's trial Monday is that this is the second time the 43-year-old Fairfield man is on trial charged with fatally shooting one of his former Pinole Valley High School classmates. A 23-year-old Fitch was acquitted of murder by a Contra Costa County jury in 1993 after testifying that he killed Anthony Earl Davis in self-defense two years earlier.
Just before dawn Sept. 6, 2011, Fitch shot McCoy 10 times, mostly in the back, from the driver's seat of a pickup truck with broken door locks as the victim tried to crawl out of the speeding vehicle through the passenger-side window, prosecutor Mary Knox said. McCoy, a 42-year-old San Pablo man, was found dying in the street not far from Pinole's Fernandez Park, where he and Fitch -- former brothers-in-law -- had played PONY League baseball together as children in the 1970s.
Fitch used two handguns, a .45 and .357, he kept in a vault at a friend's Fairfield residence, Knox said. The night before McCoy's death, Fitch retrieved the guns and commented that he had just left his wife. The next morning, an agitated Fitch returned the guns and offered the friend's roommate $25,000 to hide the truck in his backyard.
The roommate, who saw blood stains when he searched the pickup cab that morning (at Fitch's request) for a missing eyeglass lens, refused to store the truck, according to Knox.
Defense attorney Dan Russo said Fitch and McCoy were on their way to buy drugs that morning when Fitch asked McCoy if he was having sex "with his old lady." McCoy purportedly replied, "What are you going to do about it?" and pulled out Fitch's own .45-caliber handgun. A bewildered Fitch, wondering if his wife had given McCoy his own gun to kill him, believed he was about to be shot.
The friends' relationship had been deteriorating for months. Two weeks earlier, McCoy had attacked Fitch with a knife, Russo said.
"Brian Fitch took the life of his best friend Jeff McCoy so Jeff McCoy didn't take his life," Russo said.
Knox said the evidence will show Fitch planned McCoy's murder. At Fitch's grandmother's funeral in October 2010, Fitch accused McCoy and two other childhood friends of sleeping with his wife.
On the morning of McCoy's death, Fitch called one of those friends said, "I'm coming for you next," according to Knox.
Knox told the jury that people in McCoy's and Fitch's circle will testify to the "jealously, paranoia, emotions that led to Brian Fitch becoming a killing machine."
Russo suggested the jury be wary of such witnesses, many of whom Fitch had problems with after he loaned them money out of the inheritance from his grandmother.
Fitch's wealth, and threats he allegedly made to numerous friends, prompted a judge in 2011 to set Fitch's bail at $20.5 million. He's been in County jail ever since.
Contact Malaika Fraley at 925-234-1684. Follow her at Twitter.com/malaikafraley.