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‘Choking the life out of me’: Man accused in murder takes stand in own defense

GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- A jury likely will begin deliberating today in a murder case accusing an oil worker of killing his friend near Tioga.

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During testimony on his own behalf Monday, defendant Ryan Neil Anderson the life was choked out of him the night he fatally stabbed his lifelong friend.

The Iron River, Mich., man is accused of murdering Christopher King, also of Iron River, after he stabbed King twice to the chest and twice to the abdomen at a man camp near Tioga, northeast of Williston, last year. Anderson maintains he acted in self-defense.

Anderson, whose case was moved to Grand Forks over concerns of pre-trial publicity,  testified that he remembered only bits and pieces of that night, during which he and his co-workers went out to a bar in Tioga to drink and watch the mixed-martial arts fights. He testified that the first thing he remembered after returning to the man camp was knocking a cup of ice out of his then-fiancée’s hand, who refused to go to bed with him.

“That is when I get mauled from behind,” he said in court.

He testified someone pushed him up against the wall and then threw him to the floor of the common room where everyone was gathered.

His testimony conflicts with prosecution witnesses’ version of events. David Nardi, also of Iron River, was a friend of Anderson and worked on Anderson’s crew in the oilfields. He testified in court last week that Anderson slammed his ex-fiancée, Rebecca Rogers, against the fridge before Nardi went to restrain him against the wall. Rogers told the jury last week that Anderson never touched her the night of the stabbing.

Anderson then testified that he and the others in the common room were firing heated comments back and forth. At one point, someone landed a blow to his side and knocked him to the floor.

“I just remember Chris (King) choking me,” he said. “He was choking the life out of me.”

He testified he managed to pry King off of him, but that all of his energy was drained afterwards.

George Abdilnour, a nurse at Tioga Medical Center who examined Anderson the night of the stabbing, testified Monday that his injuries were consistent with those of someone who had been involved in a fight. He said there were scratches and swelling on Anderson’s neck, an abrasion on his forehead and bruising on his elbow.

Anderson also told the jury that King was the only one making personal comments against him, insulting him as a father. Anderson has a 4-year-old daughter with Rogers.

In cross examination, the prosecution pressed Anderson as to why he never contacted the police. Assistant Attorney General Paul Emerson also pointed out that Anderson could have stayed in his room and that no one had entered his room to assault him.

The prosecution also suggested in its questioning that Anderson was only selecting slices of memories that did not implicate him in murder.

Anderson testified he could not remember how the knife with which he stabbed King came to be open in his pocket. The knife was not a switch blade.

Anderson, who drove King to the Tioga Medical Center that night, also denied having suggested to Keith Hansen, a former co-worker and witness for the prosecution, that they leave King in the hospital parking lot.

“Nothing mattered except getting Chris to the hospital,” Anderson said of the moments after the stabbing.

“I was just trying to get him help,” he said, testifying that he half-dragged, half-carried King to the hospital door.

The defense rested Monday after Anderson took the stand.