Prosecuting one of his first cases as Gila County’s new chief deputy, Shawn Fuller made the case during opening arguments Wednesday morning that a Strawberry man had beat a man so violently his face caved in.
Fuller argued Eugene “Gino” Wullkotte II, 37, wanted to teach Charles Ayon a lesson on the night of Jan. 16. Wullkotte had returned to the Sportsman Chalet in Strawberry after drinking with family and friends and “sucker punched” Ayon, 56, in the face so hard it knocked him unconscious.
Wullkotte only stopped beating Ayon when bystanders pried him off, Fuller said. Paramedics wheeled Ayon out on a stretcher with a swollen eye and blood pooling in his ear.
Wullkotte’s trial continued through Friday, with no verdict released at press time.
Fuller said Wullkotte admitted to deputies he had hit Ayon and that it was wrong.
“But those bad choices have consequences,” Fuller said. “If he had just gone home and stayed home, we would not be here today.”
Not so fast, argued Wullkotte’s defense attorney Art Lloyd.
Lloyd argued that the supposed victim had harassed Wullkotte’s wife repeatedly. Moreover, Ayon that night had a blood alcohol content of .214, more than two times the legal driving limit.
To prove his point, Lloyd noisily set 20 bottles of beer on a small table in front of the jury, attempting to illustrate how much Ayon consumed before the altercation.
Wullkotte went back to the bar that night to tell Ayon to leave his wife alone, Lloyd said.
Lloyd said witnesses, including a sheriff’s deputy, would testify that Ayon had hit on Wullkotte’s wife in November and then again that January night.
When Wullkotte learned Ayon had harassed his wife, he drove back to the Chalet and confronted Ayon.
Accounts conflict on exactly what happened next, Lloyd said.
While the bar has cameras, a support post blocked the camera’s view of the fight. Sheriff’s deputies decided not to collect the tape into evidence, since they couldn’t see the fight. Lloyd said the tape could have shown how many people entered the bar with Wullkotte, how long the fight lasted and possibly other clues.
Sheriff’s Deputy Colt Maxwell said Wednesday on the witness stand that detectives didn’t collect the tape because it didn’t show the fight.
Nonetheless, the fight between Wullkotte and Ayon drew in several other people in the bar. When it was over, Wullkotte waited outside the bar for officers to arrive.
Maxwell said when he first approached Wullkotte, he freely admitted he had punched Ayon for sexually harassing his wife. Wullkotte told the officer Ayon had fallen off his bar stool and hit the ground.
Wullkotte appeared uninjured and compliant.
“He said he knew it was the wrong thing to do, but he was standing up for his wife of 15 years,” Maxwell wrote in the police report.
Witnesses said Wullkotte had continued to punch Ayon while he was on the ground and only stopped when people pulled him off, according to the report.
Back at the jail, Wullkotte gave a statement contradicting his earlier comments, Maxwell said. He wrote that the fight had been brief and he did not remember hitting anyone, he said.