AP NEWS

Jurors are deliberating in Montana veteran’s shooting death

November 20, 2019
Brandon Lee Craft sits in court as jurors began deliberations on Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019, in the case he is charged with in shooting 28-year-old Adam Petzack in the back of the head, burying his body in the dirt floor of a barn and stealing his veterans disability benefits for several months. Craft, 24, confessed in August 2016 that he killed Petzack but testified Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019, that his now ex-wife was responsible for Petzack's death. (Rion Sanders/Great Falls Tribune via AP)
Brandon Lee Craft sits in court as jurors began deliberations on Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019, in the case he is charged with in shooting 28-year-old Adam Petzack in the back of the head, burying his body in the dirt floor of a barn and stealing his veterans disability benefits for several months. Craft, 24, confessed in August 2016 that he killed Petzack but testified Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019, that his now ex-wife was responsible for Petzack's death. (Rion Sanders/Great Falls Tribune via AP)

GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) — Jurors in north-central Montana are deliberating the case of a man charged with killing a disabled veteran, burying his body in the dirt floor of a barn near Great Falls, selling his pickup truck and stealing his disability benefits for several months.

During the five-day trial that wrapped up Tuesday in Great Falls, prosecutors presented evidence that Brandon Lee Craft confessed to shooting Adam Petzack in February 2016 and that he wrote letters to his grandmother and his father-in-law acknowledging he killed Petzack, 28. The letters said Craft’s wife had nothing to do with it.

However, Craft testified Tuesday that it was his now ex-wife, Katelyn Zdeb, who was responsible for Petzack’s death, the Great Falls Tribune reported.

Craft told investigators and his grandmother that he caught Petzack masturbating on the couch in the living room and found his 4-year-old daughter in her bedroom partially unclothed and uncovered.

“I snapped,” Craft told investigators in August 2016. “Adam went out the front door. I went to the back bedroom. I had my .22 rifle sitting by the back door. I opened the back door and he was almost to his room, and I shot him. I panicked, and I didn’t know what to do.”

He drew investigators a map of where they could find Petzack’s body.

“Then something changed,” Cascade County Attorney Josh Racki told jurors during opening statements on Nov. 13. “Katelyn (Craft) began seeing another man ... so the defendant sent another letter to his grandma, and he began to spin a new story.”

Racki said Craft instructed his grandmother to get rid of the previous letter.

Craft testified Tuesday that it was Zdeb, not he, who caught Petzack masturbating and that she shot Petzack and dragged his body to the barn.

He said he confessed because “I felt like this was all my fault, and I was trying to protect my family.”

Under questioning, Craft said his decision to accuse Zdeb had nothing to do with her not allowing his children to visit him in jail.

When asked about the discrepancies between his initial confession and his testimony, Craft said: “I told the detectives I did a lot of things in that interview that were not correct.”

The Crafts divorced in 2017.

Craft had been scheduled for trial in May for deliberate homicide, tampering with evidence and deceptive practices. But District Judge Elizabeth Best received an anonymous letter claiming Zdeb had confessed to three people that she had killed Petzack. All three denied those claims.

Craft’s cousin testified she wrote the letter based on stories she heard from Tim Crocker, to whom Zdeb was engaged for a time.

Crocker testified Friday that Zdeb “essentially orchestrated it. She wanted him (Petzack) out of that house.”

However, Crocker said in every version of the story Zdeb reportedly told him, it was always Craft who shot Petzack. He said he never told anyone that Zdeb was responsible.

Zdeb denied allegations that she told Crocker she helped plan Petzack’s death or that she was at the house when it happened.

Zdeb has pleaded guilty to two counts of deceptive practices for her role in taking Petzack’s $1,400 monthly benefits and stealing his pickup truck.

Petzack was on full disability through Veterans Affairs because of a traumatic brain injury he suffered in Iraq and post-traumatic stress disorder, court records said.