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Published November 02, 2012, 02:19 PM

Jekyll/Hyde Personality Cited in Samshal Attempted Murder Case

Travis Samshal’s mother reluctantly testified Thursday she told a police officer in August that her son displayed a “Jekyll and Hyde” personality when he was drinking.

By: Stephen J. Lee, Grand Forks Herald

Travis Samshal’s mother reluctantly testified Thursday she told a police officer in August that her son displayed a “Jekyll and Hyde” personality when he was drinking.

Sherry Largis was the final witness in her son’s trial in Grand Forks state district court on a charge he tried to murder his roommate, Leo Franco, on Dec. 14.

Samshal has admitted firing his hunting rifle toward Franco from a few feet away in their south Grand Forks apartment, but said he did it out of fear of Franco.

The jury will begin deliberating the case today after closing arguments from both sides. If it convicts Samshal, 27, of attempted murder, he faces as much as 20 years in prison.

He also was tried on a lesser charge of reckless endangerment that carries a prison sentence of up to five years.

Samshal spent more than four hours testifying in his own defense Wednesday and Thursday, saying he feared Franco might attack him Dec. 14 as he had on Thanksgiving Day, when he says Franco pummeled his head and face.

Months of “weird,” aggressive behavior by Franco, including sexual advances, made him wary of his roommate, leading to the rifle shot to scare him away, Samshal said.

In his testimony Tuesday, Franco denied making such advances, saying in his native Cuba men show affection for male relatives, and he considered Samshal a younger brother.

Drinking issue

Largis of Red Lake Falls, Minn., told the prosecutor that she couldn’t remember what she told a police investigator Aug. 8 because she had been on post-surgery painkillers. Police had interviewed her in the prosecution’s preparation for the trial.

But when Assistant State’s Attorney Jason McCarthy showed her a transcript of the interview, Largis agreed she had said her normally quiet and shy son had a “Jekyll and Hyde” aspect to his personality when he was drinking.

Although the term was not explained in court, it typically is used to describe a split-personality of a person turning from a good “Dr. Jekyll” into an evil “Mr. Hyde,” based on the famous 19th-century novel.

Samshal and Franco both testified they had been drinking for hours together before both the Thanksgiving Day fight and the Dec. 14 shooting.

Questioned by defense attorneys Thursday, Sherry Largis, her husband Wesley Largis and his son, Ben Largis — who is Samshal’s step-brother — said Samshal never was physically aggressive to anyone, but was shy and was bullied as a youth because of his small stature.

Wesley Largis said after the fight with Franco in the early morning hours of Thanksgiving Day last year in Red Lake Falls, Samshal’s “face was beaten to a bloody pulp.”

Franco’s face also showed injuries from the fight, Wesley Largis said.

Complex friendship

Samshal testified Thursday that Franco’s behavior for months, including the fight and sexual advances, made him feel “violated.”

Yet both men testified they got along fine after the Thanksgiving fight and went hunting together Dec. 13, then spent six hours or more drinking together into the early hours of Dec. 14, said prosecutor McCarthy in his cross-examination Thursday of Samshal, an edge of sarcasm in his voice: “You willingly went hunting with your armed violator?”

“Yes,” Samshal said.

Did Franco assault him or violate him during those hours, McCarthy pressed Samshal, who answered, “No.”

Had he ever reported Franco’s alleged threatening behavior and sexual advances to police or his landlord, McCarthy asked.

“No,” Samshal said. “I didn’t even tell my family. I didn’t tell anyone…. It was embarrassing.”