Glen Donaldson took the witness stand Thursday in the attempt to explain how two good friends ended up with one dead and the other facing a first-degree murder charge.
On the night of Dec. 29, 2016, he texted his son-in-law, Adam Levi, and arranged to pick up bed rails for his daughter, who had left items when she moved out of their house. After loading the rails, he was invited to stay a while and visit.
He told the jury in the courtroom of Judge Don Poole that the conversation changed that night from small talk to the subject that led to Amanda and Adam Levi’s divorce, which was in progress at that time. The jury was sent out of the room during most of this testimony, which involved alleged drug use by Levi. The defendant said, "He knew he had a problem, he had lost three other jobs after losing one he had for 15 years. He said Amanda had been holding things together until she moved out with their daughter eight months earlier. In December 2016, the house was in foreclosure. Adam told his father-in-law that he had lost everything, it was stated.
In trying to “push buttons,” that he said he thought might make Adam get help, Donaldson said he let him know that Amanda had evidence that would be used against him regarding custody and rights of his daughter during the divorce. Amanda had paid for a 17-panel drug test to be done. Adam arrived for the test with a shaved head so no hair sampling could be taken after which he believed he had beaten the test, it was stated.
That night, Adam was also told that before she left, Amanda had copied text messages she found on her husband’s phone mentioning “Willy,” and "what $10, $20 and $30 could buy." Plans were to use them as evidence. Donaldson said, “I interpreted those messages as being that he was in drug deals.” He said he also told Levi that Amanda had taken photos of drug paraphernalia while still living in their home together. Adam was also told about a secret meeting between Amanda and his parents to make them aware of the drug problem.
As he was preparing to leave the night of the shooting, Donaldson said he asked Adam if he thought his drug use could have anything to do with deformities of their stillborn son, Gabriel. It was at that point that his demeanor began to change, said Donaldson.
For the first time, Adam was being confronted with irrefutable evidence, said defense attorney Ben MacGowan, and the realization that he would have to deal with it. Before, he had been fighting to keep up an appearance and now everyone knows, he said. His reaction could cause fear, panic and misjudgment, said Donaldson’s attorney. This could explain why Adam reacted in the uncharacteristic way that he allegedly did, he said. The defendant had taken other steps in the past to help his son-in-law, when he called 911 in response to a suicide threat by Adam after his wife had filed for divorce, it was stated.
Judge Poole allowed some of the testimony about drug abuse to be heard by the jury minus details. Donaldson described Adam’s behavior as coming to the realization that he would have to deal with his drug use, and that night as being “amped up” with anger and rage building. He said he “twitched a knife while standing at the sink.” “I’d never seen a violent thing in the man,” said his father-in-law. He did not perceive that anger was directed to him, and there was no direct threat at that time, he said.
After Donaldson returned from using the rest room, that perception changed, he said. Adam was still standing at the sink when he was asked about his stillborn baby and he began to pivot to the left toward Donaldson while holding a knife, he told the jury. He said Levi stated, “I’ll cut you” as he stood about a foot and a half away. That is when Donaldson said he pulled out a gun and shot. He said he did not know where the bullet went until he saw Adam fall. He said he believed that he was going to get cut. He said he did not run out the door because his mobility was limited by a neck brace resulting from disc surgery.
Donaldson emotionally described the realization of what had taken place and the confusion and disbelief following the shooting. He said that resulted in him mixing up some of the exact details of the incident. He said he was scared so he left in his truck and called his older brother Jerry Donaldson, when he got to a bank parking lot about three miles away. He also called 911 and reported what had happened.
Dr. Stephen Cogswell, the forensic pathologist who performed an autopsy, told the jury that he concluded the manner of death was homicide and the proximate cause was a gunshot wound to the head. A toxicology report done that night showed that no illicit drugs were present. However, Adderall, an amphetamine that is a stimulant, and Hydrocodone combined with acetaminephen that is used to treat pain, were in his system, as well as a metabolizer used in conjunction with that drug. There was also evidence of Tramadol, another non-opioid pain reliever, being present. Adam Levi had current prescriptions for each of the drugs, and had been taking them for years, said Dr. Cogswell. After longtime use a patient develops a tolerance to medications and so their “therapeutic ranges” vary for each individual. The amount of these drugs that were detected were above the therapeutic ranges suggested in most reference books, but a possible explanation was because his tolerance level was high causing the “effective range” to be higher than the textbook cases.
Dr. Cogswell also said that there was no evidence of injury and that hypertension and coronary artery disease that were found had no effect on Adam’s death. There were no injuries to indicate a fight prior to the death, he said.
The bullet entered the head at the back right and left a quarter inch hole around which was a one and three eights-inch stipple pattern and soot deposition. In later comparisons to test firing the actual gun, it was determined that the gun was about three inches away from Adam’s head when it was fired while he was facing away from it. The forensic evidence puts the shooter and victim about a foot and a half apart, it was testified.
The defense suggested that the effect of the drugs found might have been minimized and that some of the drugs are considered to be narcotic and can be the source of abuse leading to psychotic and physical dependence. Elevated levels of these could have potential side effects, said attorney MacGowan. There was nothing in Adam’s physiology report that would account for his use of these drugs used for pain, he stated.
The defense called several character witnesses as well as the defendant's father, former police officer Harold Donaldson. He said Amanda and daughter Olivia had moved in with them after leaving Levi.
He said his son came to their house that night and seemed calm as usual. He said he was going to Levi's house to get a couple of bed rails.
The case is set to go to the jury on Friday.