Angus Gaudin’s New Vista High School yearbook photo
Angus Gaudin's New Vista High School yearbook photo

The hallucinogenic drugs a 19-year-old Boulder man reported taking before investigators say he stabbed another teen to death could be to blame for his actions, according to a medical expert.

But defense attorneys say that may not be enough to prevent a murder conviction.

Spencer Crawford was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of second-degree murder after investigators say he stabbed and killed Angus Gaudin, 17, of Boulder, on a group camping trip in the 5200 block of Ridge Road just outside of Nederland.

According to an affidavit, Crawford was found naked near the scene of the slaying and said he and Gaudin had ingested LSD, mushrooms and "moonshine" before the incident.

Crawford told paramedics Gaudin had a machete and was going to "kill everyone," according to court records, but an eyewitness interviewed by detectives apparently made no mention of Gaudin being armed at the time he was stabbed. The witness told investigators he was talking to both teens when Crawford "took out a knife and stabbed Angus in the chest with it."

LSD can cause 'exaggerated response'

Chris Hoyte, an assistant professor of emergency medicine and medical toxicology at the University of Colorado's Anschutz Medical Campus, said hallucinations are the most common effect of taking LSD.

"Typically it makes people hallucinate and see things that aren't there," Hoyte said.

Hoyte said while many people experience a feeling of euphoria, seeing things that aren't there can scare them and cause them to react to situations in a way that seems out of character.

"Not only does it scare them, but they might also feel empowered that they can do something about that, and they think they're doing a good deed but end up hurting someone," Hoyte said. "They have an exaggerated response to it, and it can also alter the way that you respond to an object you have seen a thousand times."

Spencer Crawford
Spencer Crawford

Hoyte said the fact that Crawford was found naked also fits with LSD use because the drug can cause the user to sweat and feel hot. He also said with LSD use, a person may not even remember what he or she did.

"Sometimes they don't remember anything," he said. "It totally depends on the person."

At Crawford's first court appearance Thursday, several of his friends said he was not violent and were surprised to hear the allegations.

One who was on the camping trip said he "wasn't himself," and another said Crawford never would have done something like that sober.

One witness said Crawford and others had taken LSA. The website Drugs-forum.com says LSA is a psychedelic drug closely related to LSD but derived from an extraction of morning glory and Hawaiian baby woodrose seeds.

When intoxication is a 'choice'

Denver defense attorney and former prosecutor Craig Silverman said being under the influence of drugs may not be an applicable defense in such a case.

Silverman said if a person gets intoxicated voluntarily, the intoxication is no longer a defense for certain crimes, including second-degree murder.

"If you decide to get wasted, you assume certain responsibilities about what happens," he said, adding that voluntary intoxication can be used as a defense in crimes that require specific intent.

Even in first-degree murder cases, when intoxication is a valid defense, it isn't always an effective one, Silverman said.

"Generally speaking, juries don't like that defense," Silverman said. "It does not play well at trial."

Alexander Garlin, who has 35 years of experience practicing criminal defense law, agreed that juries tend to reject intentional intoxication defenses.

Garlin said that while the law allows the defense in first-degree murder cases, in which prosecutors must prove the defendant acted with intent after deliberation, public thinking is: "The person made a choice to be in that condition, therefore they should be held accountable for the consequences."

While noting he is not familiar with the evidence in the case, Garlin indicated he would avoid first-degree murder if he were filing charges against Crawford.

"In a case where behavior can be explained largely by somebody not being in (his or her) normal state of mind, it makes it a lot easier where the fact of intentional intoxication is not permitted in evidence," he said.

Camera Staff Writer Joe Rubino contributed to this report.

Contact Camera Staff Writer Mitchell Byars at 303-473-1329 or byarsm@dailycamera.com.