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Associated Press, Published October 10 2013

ND manslaughter suspect says he was trying to help

MANDAN, N.D. — A Mandan man on trial for manslaughter in the death of another man after a fight at a house party has said the victim was his friend and that he had been trying to help him.

Colten Towry, 23, is accused of punching Derek Oshkeshequoam, 30, of Bismarck, at the October 2012 party. Oshkeshequoam (pronounced awsh-KEESH'-kuh-wawm) fell and hit his head on pavement, and died days later at a Bismarck hospital.

Towry took the stand in his own defense on Wednesday. He said he was trying to break up a fight between Oshkeshequoam and another man when the incident happened, The Bismarck Tribune reported (http://bit.ly/16z30ba ). Others have testified that Oshkeshequoam hit Towry before Towry hit him.

Morton County Assistant State's Attorney Brian Grosinger asked Towry whether it would have been more effective to grab Oshkeshequoam from behind or take some other action rather than to get into the middle of the fight. He also asked Towry why someone who waded into a fight to break it up was surprised by being hit.

"There's a lot of things that everybody could have done" differently, Towry told him, adding that he also could have just watched the fight rather than try to get involved.

Towry said that after the fight broke up, he thought Oshkeshequoam was passed out drunk and he left the party shortly after the altercation.

Authorities say people at the party eventually moved Oshkeshequoam to a bed in the basement of the home. The two men who rented the home allegedly left Oshkeshequoam at a hospital emergency room the next day.

Those two men were charged with reckless endangerment for not seeking medical help for Oshkeshequoam during the party. Joseph Houle, 28, pleaded guilty earlier and was sentenced to serve six months in jail. Christopher Vernon, 34, has pleaded not guilty and faces a November trial.

Towry could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted of Class B felony manslaughter.

The defense was scheduled to rest on Thursday, with the jury getting the case after closing arguments by attorneys on both sides.