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Motive at issue in fatal stabbing trial

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Murder suspect Marcus Dewayne Huff sat down with Gwinnett police investigators in March last year and didn't mince words in a 40-minute interview: "I stuck him," Huff said, according to a prosecutor.

By "him," Huff was referring to 42-year-old Daniel Aftowski, a Duluth insurance rep described as Huff's friend and "drinking buddy." By "stuck," he referenced the 34 stab wounds found dotted around Aftowski's body, including a deep blow that broke his clavicle and severed an artery, prosecutors believe.

But it's the motive that raises questions.

Huff, 36, claims he fatally stabbed Aftowski in a sudden rage, triggered when Aftowski made a homosexual advance and informed Huff he'd performed oral sex on Aftowski in a drunken stupor the previous Thanksgiving. Attorneys on both sides agree the two men scuffled in Aftowski's kitchen, where Huff lifted a knife from a counter and started thrusting.

The key question posed to jurors Tuesday is whether Aftowski's supposed sexual advances were enough to provoke a reasonable person into a passionate fit -- that is, to provide the basis for a voluntary manslaughter conviction in lieu of murder.

"A reasonable person would not act like that," Senior Assistant District Attorney John Warr told jurors, as Huff's murder trial opened Tuesday.

Defense attorney John Petrey disagreed, pinning the fault on Aftowski and asking jurors not to acquit Huff, but to convict him on the lesser charge.

"(Huff) reacted in a panic ... resulting from the provocation of what (Aftowski) had done," Petrey said.

Huff faces -- and has pleaded not guilty to -- counts of murder, felony murder and aggravated assault.

Suspicions arose when Aftowski failed to show up for work on Feb. 5, 2010. At the request of Aftowski's father, police checked his Arbors at Breckinridge apartment the following week. Nobody answered the door but police noted Aftowksi's PT Cruiser parked outside.

Police returned the following day, Feb. 9, with an apartment manager, went in and found Aftowski's body on his bedroom floor, wrapped in a blanket and air-mattresses, the air heavy with bleach. Bloody drag marks trailed back to the bathroom and kitchen. Officers noticed the PT Cruiser was missing.

Decatur resident Lewis Brown, a longtime friend of Huff's family, testified Huff stopped by in a PT Cruiser and mentioned that he'd "got to fighting" with a man in Gwinnett County who'd emailed Huff's girlfriend about the Thanksgiving encounter.

"He said he blanked out ... and he just went berserk," Brown testified.

Petrey said he plans to call a clinical psychologist to the stand who examined Huff at length and will testify a number of mental factors could have influence Huff's behavior, including a previous brain injury.

A few weeks after the killing, Brown testified that Huff turned himself in to an officer at South DeKalb Mall at his urging.

Testimony is expected to resume today and conclude later this week.