Buggs breaks silence

Jim Martyka

“I did not kill Kami Talley.”
That is what Louis Cardona “Butch” Buggs, the man charged with killing Talley, told jurors Thursday while testifying in his murder trial.
With the prosecution resting its case in the morning, defense attorneys called their first witnesses, including Buggs’ sister Lori Buggs, Talley’s grandparents and a friend with whom Buggs worked.
After the lunch break, defense attorney John Lucas surprised the court by calling Buggs to the stand.
Buggs is charged with killing Talley at her workplace in Northeast Minneapolis last Valentine’s Day. However, in his testimony Buggs told jurors “there was no way” he killed her, and that he was never near Talley’s workplace on the day of her murder.
Buggs was called to the stand after Judge Peter Albrecht’s earlier denial of a defense motion, where attorneys said Buggs should be acquitted because the prosecution’s case was based on circumstantial evidence.
“The state’s case is circumstantial, but it’s as strong a circumstantial case as I’ve ever seen,” Albrecht said.
For the entire afternoon session, defense attorneys questioned Buggs about his relationship with Talley.
He told jurors about how he met Talley and how they dated through high school. “We eventually fell in love,” he said. “She was my girlfriend.”
Buggs described how he and Talley raised their daughter Ambreen and obtained a house together. He said the couple had even been discussing future plans, which were cut short when Talley moved out.
Defense attorneys questioned Buggs about an incident in August of 1995 in which Buggs allegedly beat Talley. “I lost my cool in a big way and assaulted her,” he told jurors. “Of course, I felt real bad.”
Buggs plead guilty to the assault and spent three months in a workhouse before obtaining a job on work-release as a cook at a local cafe. During this time, he was told not to contact Talley.
But Buggs testified that both he and Talley continued to contact each other, primarily to allow him to see his daughter. He said Talley continually came to his workplace with Ambreen.
Buggs also testified that he received counseling and had determined his relationship with Talley was over. He said that, with his sentence over in early January, he was planning a trip to Virginia to visit relatives.
During this time, Buggs said he drew up a will, which was later discovered during a search of Buggs’ home, as well as a “To-Do” list he had written for Talley for when he was gone concerning their finances and home. While on the stand, Buggs read
both the will and the list to jurors. At the end of the list, Buggs had written that he “didn’t mean to hurt her” and that he loved her.
Lucas asked Buggs if the will was prepared because he murdered Talley, and Buggs replied, “No way.”
Later, Lucas played an answering machine message from Feb. 9, in which Talley told Buggs she needed to talk with him about money and Ambreen.
Buggs testified that when he called back two days later while Talley was at work, the two got into an argument because he told her he wanted half of the tax returns she received. Buggs also testified that he told her he was going to try to get custody of
Ambreen.
Deborah Wood, Talley’s mother, testified Tuesday that she overheard this conversation and that Buggs had threatened to kill Talley. But Buggs said there was nobody else on the line and that he never threatened her.
On Feb. 11, Buggs said, he received another message from Talley saying she had called police and that they had a warrant for his arrest. “That’s when I decided I should leave town,” Buggs said.
He said he made plans to go with friends to Texas. Buggs told jurors that while preparing to leave, he asked his sister Lena to watch his house. Lena Buggs testified Monday that her brother told her Talley would make him kill her if she didn’t let
him see Ambreen. But Thursday, Buggs denied ever saying that. He also testified that Lena Buggs has a reputation for being untruthful.
Lori Buggs also testified that her sister was untruthful. Rose and Delmar Napue, Talley’s grandparents, told jurors Wood’s honesty was also questionable.
On Feb. 14, the day of Talley’s murder, Buggs said that he left with three friends for San Antonio, Texas to visit Rachel Contrares. He said when he arrived, he still had no knowledge of Talley’s death. He said it wasn’t until hours l
ater, when he called a friend in Minneapolis, that he found out about her murder and that he was the top suspect.
“How was it that they could say I had anything to do with it?” Buggs said. “I was scared to death. I didn’t know what was going on.”
Contrares testified last week that Buggs admitted to her that he had killed Talley. Buggs said he never made any comments like that to her.
Buggs then testified that he went to Mexico for two-and-a-half months just to get away from everything. He told jurors that he went to several cities and spent most of his time running and walking along the beach thinking about his situation. But eventual
ly, he decided it was time to come back. “I was tired of running,” he said. “I was just through.”
Buggs said he went to Alexandria, Va. to live with his sister and seek advice from his family. Buggs said he had talked to family about turning himself in but was scared to when he saw media coverage from Minneapolis. He was arrested by FBI offici
als six days later.
Detective Thomas Durkin from the Alexandria, Va. police testified that he properly handled the gun clips found in Lori Buggs’ house. Lori Buggs testified that the gun found in her house belonged to her boyfriend.
Prosecuting attorneys will cross-examine Buggs today. It is unclear whether the defense will call any other witnesses. Albrecht told jurors that they will go into deliberation on Monday, after both sides present their closing arguments.
If found guilty, Buggs could face up to life in prison without the option of parole.
— Staff Reporter Andrew Tellijohn contributed to this report.