By Alan Sorensen
The prosecuting attorney painted a picture of drug dealers and intrigue in his opening statement in the Jacob Spang murder trial Monday afternoon.
Spang is being tried for his alleged part in the murder of Kristi Walker, 30, and Kevin Caplette, 30, both of Havre. They were found shot to death at Walker's trailer home in the 1200 block of Sixth Street shortly before 1 p.m. on Sept. 16.
Spang is charged with two counts of deliberate homicide by application of the felony murder rule, two counts of intimidation by accountability, one count of tampering with evidence, and car theft.
Spang's 16-year-old sister, Francine Spang, is charged with the same offenses and scheduled to go to trial in Havre on June 19.
Their co-defendant, Reid Danell, pleaded guilty in open court May 15 to first degree murder. He admitted shooting both victims.
Defense attorneys Carl White of Havre and Edmund Sheehy of Helena admit that Spang and his sister were present at the time of the shootings and that they fled with Danell. They are arguing, however, that the Spangs acted out of fear for their own lives and did what Danell told them to because he scared them.
Deputy Hill County Attorney Aileen Miller called Gabe Lawrence, Walker's boyfriend, as the state's first witness when the trial reconvened at 8:30 a.m. today.
On Monday, Assistant Montana Attorney General Joe Thaggard of the Missoula office laid out what the state says are the time lines leading up to and following the murder. He described the circumstances at the time of the murders as he said they were told to him by the shooter and others.
A party began at Walker's home in the evening of Sept. 15, 1999. Numerous people came and went, including Donny Ferguson, who planned to move in with Walker, and her boyfriend, Wesley "Bear" Merrill, a drug dealer with whom Walker did business.
Merrill threatened Walker, Thaggard said, with an unloaded shotgun. He also is the one, Thaggard said, who told Danell to collect the money Walker owed him or to collect collateral.
Thaggard argued during his opening statement that Spang was actively involved in the intimidation that went on the Walker home earlier in the night. It was Spang, he said, who removed the clip from the semi-automatic 9mm rifle that was used later to shoot both Caplette and Walker. Spang then removed the bullets from the clip, and gave the clip back to Danell. He later retrieved the clip from Danell, reloaded the bullets, and gave the clip back to Danell.
Between 3 and 5 a.m., Walker visited several Havre homes, including Lawrence's brother's home. There, Lawrence reportedly gave her about $70 from his pocket, and his brother, Junior, gave her a $200 check. She cashed the check at an all-night Havre store. She also collected loans ranging from $20 to $100 or so at other homes around town, including Tab Angstman's.
While Walker was out collecting money, Spang and Danell reportedly took some items they found in the garage and trailer and put them in Walker's closet as collateral. It was during this time that Spang is accused of disabling all three phones at the residence living room, garage and Walker's bedroom.
She returned home, the prosecutor said, to find Caplette dead on the floor in the hallway leading into the living room from the kitchen. Danell reportedly told police that he had intended to shoot Caplette in the leg as a warning upon Walker's return. Thaggard said Danell told police he panicked when he shot Caplette and Caplette was still able to rise from the chair in which he was smoking crank. Danell then shot Caplette eight more times. Caplette fell dead near his chair, his body blocking the hallway leading into the living room.
Thaggard said that Walker entered the trailer with the money she had raised, saw Caplette's body, and ran into her bedroom where her telephone was. She found the phone ripped out of the wall, reportedly by Jacob Spang. Danell said that he took the money Walker had raised and was holding out to him and told her "no witnesses." He then fired rounds into the wall around her. She was killed by a single shot in the eye.
Danell told authorities that he took the keys to Donny Ferguson's car from Walker's body and that he and the two Spangs drove through Beaver Creek Park to Rocky Boy. Along the way, Danell told Spang to wipe down the gun and remove all finger prints. Spang wiped the gun with his shirt and then threw his shirt out the window of the moving car. Danell told Spang to throw the bullet clip out the window, too, but Spang mistakenly threw out a TV remote control unit instead.
Lawrence recounted his movements and numerous contacts with Walker during the night and early morning under questioning by Miller this morning. He then described the scene he and his brother found when they went to Walker's home during the noon hour of Sept. 16.
Lawrence said he found the door in the breezeway between the garage and trailer open and yelled Walker's name. He entered the trailer and saw Caplette's body blocking hallway entry to the living room. He testified that he then backtracked down the hallway and entered Walker's bedroom. He found her body lying at the foot of her bed. He said he turned her over, cradled her, and called for his brother.
The brothers looked for Walker's bedroom phone and found it under the bed. It had been ripped from the wall. They then jumped over Caplette's body to get into the living room, but couldn't find that phone. They went into the garage and that phone was ripped out, too.
They then drove down the hill to Uncle Joes, entered the east end restaurant and called the police and Walker's parents from two different phones.
White cross examined Lawrence for the defense.
Two Havre police officers also testified this morning, according to court sources.
Danell is on the prosecution's list of witnesses in those two cases and is subject to subpoena to testify in both cases. Warner cautioned Danell that should he be called to testify, he would be subject to perjury charges if he were found to be untruthful in his testimony.