STATE of ARIZONA VS. THE MURDERER OF WILLIAM H. WRIGHT
Of 2nd Degree Murder
Trial Start Date: August 10, 2009
Trial End Date: August 18, 2009
Deliberations: August 19, 2009
Verdict: August 19, 2009
Trial Start Time: 9:30 a.m.
Trial Location: Mohave County Superior Court
401 E. Spring St.
Kingman, AZ 86402
Murderer: Candice Lynne (McDaniel) (Smice) (Erickson) Wright
"Thank You" are the first and last words I want to say to all of you, for if you are visiting this page, you are part of my family, whether through blood or through the love and affection for one of my blood, my Father, William (Bill) Horsburgh Wright. Thank you for your support these past two years and more importantly, for your friendship with me and/or my Father. No matter what, no one can kill those memories or the happiness they represent.
As an appropriate side note, I am writing this introduction while Gerson and I are driving to Lake Havasu City to attend our Trial of the Century (I certainly do hope so for us anyway!) and we are cruising in my Father's beloved Dodge Ram with his well-enjoyed Lance camper atop. And, if my mind wanders away from thoughts of him, I am reminded of his presence every hour on the hour. Why? Because the watch he was wearing when he died was given back to me and as it had been placed in the truck, its hourly double-chirp alarm reminds me he is with us everywhere we travel.
On September 02, 2007, my Father was shot at seven times with five bullets finding his body (two were fatal, three would be fatal if untreated). This execution occurred while he was trimming and preparing steaks for dinner (as he was the cook in the house). The murderer approached my Father from behind and was able to walk around his right side to stand in front and at his 1 o'clock position and proceed to fire a succession of shots from a .32 semi-automatic pistol.
No defensive wounds or other signs that a defense was posed by my Father were found, there was no forced entry and nothing was missing from the home (except the suspected murder weapon).
According to the scene investigator/detective as well as a crime scene expert hired by the defense, the first bullet probably hit my Father in the right side of his chest, just below and in front of the armpit. It is believed that the second, third or fourth bullet hit my Father just at the collar bone and as it went through his aorta, would have been fatal. The second, third or fourth bullets also struck my Father in the right side chest area, with each successive bullets' entry being slightly higher because the assassin continued shooting as my Father was falling to the ground. (It is difficult to know if the torso bullets preceded the neck or vice versa. We have established that my Father was standing up at the counter when shot in the neck).
The trajectories of the bullets were being altered by my Father's falling position and not by the shooter's movement as the murderer continued to walk toward and alongside of the right of my Father as they were emptying the clip. In other words, my Father was falling back as the killer was moving across the length of his progressively horizontal body.
The knife my Father was using to trim the steaks fell directly to the floor by his feet and his right forearm had the blood evidence to show he fell backward while trying to clutch at his chest. The fifth and final bullet found a rather different approach and entered just under his right ear, clipping a piece of his earlobe in the process. All five bullets remained encased in my Father's body as all found a rib, a kidney, a skull or some other obstacle prohibiting their exit.
Three more bullets were found and those bullets were interrupted by a kitchen cabinet that interfered with the downward angle of the gun once my Father was prone on the floor (in other words, it appears the murderer continued to shoot until out of bullets even though my Father was dead on the floor). Another bullet was lodged in the countertop and the last bullet fragment was found in the open garage compactor.
My Father fell flat to his back with each arm outstretched in a semi-crucifix position and his life ended with a strange little smile on his face that seemed to beg the question "Oh Shit, what was I thinking?"
So, here begins a journey through a judicial nightmare that we can only hope will conclude with a sweet verdict.
DAY ONE: Monday, August 10, 2009
We arrived a bit into the Jury selection process and found ourselves surrounded by about 50 potential jurors. As expected, it took the great majority of the day to whittle the number down to the 13 lucky civil servants.
The day was filled with questions of:
"Have you ever been a victim of a crime or do you know anyone that has?"
"Have you ever been a victim or known a victim of domestic violence?"
"If alcohol is involved in a crime, can you still be objective?"
"Can you render a decision based on only the evidence and facts presented in the case?"
"Is there any reason why you cannot be on the jury or anything that will interfere with your serving on the jury?"
The jury is comprised of a number of retirees, white collar and blue collar workers and there are a few that proved to be a bit lively. I cannot say too much as I respect their privacy; however, I will say that they are all from around the Kingman and Lake Havasu City areas. So far, so good.
One thing I was surprised about was the number of people that had read about the case and had admitted to already forming an opinion as to the guilt or "innocence" of the defendant. Many a prospective juror were dismissed for having this preconceived notion and walked out with a somewhat stern glance at the defendant..
Near the end of the rather monotonous day, things got a tad exciting. During a break, we saw the Public Defender, Carlene Lacy, getting quite agitated with a gentleman that had approached (and really cornered her) about something to do with Candice's $1,000,000 bond. I could only hear "$500,000", "have to ask the victim", "she signed off on the trust" and "revocation".
As soon as I saw Ms. Lacy break free from the bondsman's clutch, I asked her what was going on and she said I had to speak with the prosecutor first. And, when I asked is whatever is going on holding up the trial, Ms. Lacy said "yes" so I found the prosecutor, Jeremy Huss, and got the details.
Due to the tremendous drop in values of homes, the collateral (IE: Candice's Mother's house) is no longer worth the bond amount and as such, the bondsman was ordered by the insurance company to either revoke the bond (IE: Candice goes to jail immediately) or get the bond reduced to $500,000.
It only took seconds for me to agree that the bond should be reduced and Candice remain out of jail and under her Mother's care. Now, at first, one may want to say to revoke the bond and get Candice in jail immediately; however, one must evaluate the effect on the trial. As Candice is very ill with her self-imposed liver disease and needs close medical attention, the likelihood of her becoming so sick in jail that she would not be able to continue the trial is very high. And, if Candice cannot continue with the trial, it could get postponed.
So, lowering and retaining the bail release conditions (IE: Candice remains out of jail and under the care of her Mother) will keep Candice alive and well to see this trial through and hopefully for her to hear the famous phrase "We, the Jury, find the defendant, GUILTY".
Judge Rick Williams was a bit reluctant to lower the bond; however, as I was immediately on board and the prosecutor and public defender were both in agreement, the judge relented and granted the reduction.
We concluded the day with the 13 jurors being sworn in and their instructions read. Candice remains out on bond and in her Mother's care and we start with the Opening Statements tomorrow at 9:30 a.m.
DAY TWO: Tuesday, August 11, 2009
9:30 a.m. sharp the gavel came down and Judge Williams entered the courtroom to begin the first day of what is expected to be a 7 day (actual court days) trial. Judge Williams immediately launched into the remainder of the jury instructions and without much fanfare, opening statements were presented.
The prosecutor, Jeremy Huss, eased through his opening statement and made the jury aware of the following:
Next up was the Public Defender, (as Candice was found to be indigent and could not afford her own attorney) Carlene Lacy, and she stated the following:
The first witness was Lt. Robert Harry of the Lake Havasu Police Department. Lt. Harry was dispatched to 4000 Bear Drive at 7:08 p.m. and arrived at 7:12 p.m. He was the first on scene and stated he found Candice crying and could see that my Father was ashen, not breathing and with a large pool of blood around his upper body and head.
Upon escorting Candice to the living room, Candice talked about her day and volunteered the information that she was at the store to buy steaks and directed him to her truck to find the receipt to document her time out of the house. In the 10-20 minutes that he was with Candice, her demeanor changed and she became considerably more "composed".
Lt. Harry also stated that Candice was clear in her answers and had no difficulty to understand the questions. He also stated that Candice volunteered the information that contractors had been in the house to repair the water damage that occurred a couple of weeks before. She also volunteered that the contractors eyes got as big as "saucers" when they saw "Bill's guns".
Lt. Harry confirmed that Candice never asked how my Father died.
Cross Examination: Lt. Harry was asked if different people have different reactions and Lt. Harry said "Yes".
The second witness was Officer Scott St. John and he was dispatched to the home at 7:07 p.m. Upon arrival, he found my Father ashen, eyes glazed, no pulse, no breath and blood coagulated. Based on his training and experience, he determined my Father to be deceased and thus for a period of time.
Officer St. John observed three holes in my Father's shirt, blood "firmly" clotted around my Father's head (off to one side) and clear fluid on the outside of the blood. Duffie was outside barking, scratching and running around and when paramedics entered the home, he told them to not enter crime scene as there was no resuscitation possibility.
Officer St. John had contact with Candice and found her demeanor calm and could readily answer questions. Candice stated that my Father was trimming the steaks for dinner and he told her there was not enough meat and for her to go to the store and get more. When she returned, she did not remember if the garage door was open or closed and whether she blacked out or passed out. Officer St. John did not observe any scrapes, bruises or other marks commensurate with blacking out or passing out (IE: falling down).
Further testimony referred to a "staggered round" wherein you place a lightweight ammunition in the first round and then include a "full metal jacket" or "hollow point" bullet in the subsequent rounds. Officer St. John explained that a person does this because if the first bullet does not stop the attacker, the second and following, more significant bullets would kill them, hence "staggered rounds".
Cross Examination: Officer St. John noted in report that death occurred between 6-7 p.m. because that was the time Candice said she was out of the house up until the time she called (and subsequently hung up on) 911.
The third witness was Officer Dan Kuch who just happened to live around the corner from 4000 Bear Dr. He stated he moved to that location because of the safe, secure and quiet location, especially for raising his two young sons.
Officer Dan Kuch "cleared the home" which means he made sure there were no assailants lurking to endanger the incoming detectives and other police personnel. He stated there were no signs of forced entry and no signs of a struggle. He completed the 4-page death-investigation form with Candice and found her to have blood shot, watery eyes and a slow slurred speech.
Officer Dan Kuch posed the question to Candice (as routine for the completion of the death-investigation form), "When was the last time you saw your husband alive?" and Candice answered "5 o'clock". She also stated that she did not like handguns and that she only did long barreled guns. He also overheard Candice ask Detective KC Dreller what would create a false positive for a gunshot residue test (GSR) and heard Detective Dreller reply that smoking, some household chemicals and common fertilizers used in gardens. It was then that Candice stated that she was "gardening all day".
A change in Candice's demeanor was noticed by Officer Dan Kuch in that when Detective KC Dreller was swabbing her hands for the GSR, she became rather animated and "talkative". She was also "joking around" which the Officer thought a bit strange.
Cross Examination: Officer Dan Kuch admitted he had been to very few murder scenes and that people do react differently from each other. He also admitted that he had seen the rifles that were in the house.
The fourth and final witness for the day was Detective Rich Terrinoni and he is responsible for the computer forensics as well as scene investigations. He assisted in the search warrant and when he received the Smith's food receipt for the steaks, he went to Smith's to obtain the video of Candice's visit.
As it turned out, Candice had been in the store earlier in the day and both visits, as well as her parking maneuvers, were captured on several store security cameras. The videos were presented, frame-by-frame and time-stamped.
The first video shows Candice, dressed in a white shirt and white shorts, enter into Smith's at 10:04 a.m., take a few minutes to pick out two steaks and a bottle of vodka and proceed through the checkout. She leaves Smith's at 10:15 a.m.
The second video shows Candice dressed in a yellow shirt (with a distinct logo on the back) and blue jean shorts enter into the Smith's parking lot at 6:07 p.m. and parks in a spot. At 6:09 p.m., she backs up, drives around the aisle and proceeds to park one aisle further away from the Smith's front doors (when there were plenty of closer spots available). She enters the store, goes directly to the meat section, grabs two steaks and proceeds through the checkout at 6:13 p.m.
Candice leaves the parking spot at 6:16 p.m. and proceeds to drive around to the back of Smith's and goes past the large garbage bins for the store. She does not stop and continues to circle around and exit the same way she would have if she did not take the detour by the trash bins. Detective Terrinoni searched the bins and found no gun or suspicious clothing.
Detective Terrinoni testified that the time to drive between Smith's and Bear Drive is approximately 6 minutes and 30 seconds.
Cross Examination: No license plate or driver visible in truck that backed up and re-parked. Reiterated no gun or clothing found in dumpsters behind Smith's.
DAY THREE - Wednesday, August 13, 2009
9:30 a.m., as the gavel sounds the first witness for the day is called. Detective KC Dreller, the crime scene investigator, gave a full day's testimony.
Detective Dreller arrived at approximately 7:50 p.m. and was briefed on what was known so far. As his entry into the kitchen was hindered because of the blood splatter on the floor, Detective Dreller entered through the dining area door. Detective Dreller testified that it would be very difficult to walk around the crime scene and not interfere with the blood splatter (unless a person chose to step around the multiple blood drops).
Pictures were taken of the area and of the steaks that my Father was trimming and with a standard-sized fork as a reference in the pictures, the steaks were shown to be about 6" x 4" and about 1" thick (after they were trimmed). The steak wrappers showed the weights to be .90 and .88 or almost one pound each. (Remember, Candice stated that my Father said there was not enough meat and for her to go to the store to get more steaks).
Detective Dreller stated Candice's demeanor was "nonplussed" and no noticeable physical injuries. At this time, he had no reason to believe Candice was involved and proceeded to swab her hands for the GSR (gun shot residue) test as per routine. He was asked, "How accurate is this test?" and "What false positives could be?" and Detective Dreller responded that welding, smoking, using fertilizer while gardening, etc., could cause false positives. It was then Candice stated that she had "been gardening all day."
As part of the routine of the investigation, Detective Dreller requested that Candice remove her clothing and place them into a bag for further testing as is usual to rule out family members or other people in the house. Because there was not a female detective on the scene, Candice was unescorted during the clothing change, which took about 5-10 minutes.
Detective Dreller took Candice outside to say good-bye to Duffie and proceeded to walk her to awaiting Detective Campbell (as he was to escort her away from the crime scene and interview her for further information).
A Search Warrant was issued at 9:26 p.m. and the entire house and its contents were searched. Upon inspection of Candice's truck, the bag of steaks that Candice had purchased at 6:13 p.m. was on the floor board of the passenger side of the truck and the receipt for same was on the passenger side seat. Also found in the truck was an empty gun holster for a small caliber handgun.
Observations of blinds and window coverings being open in the kitchen and the dining room were discussed and my Father's wallet (with money and cards enclosed) were undisturbed at the laundry room entry.
Three additional bullets were found with one being inside a cabinet, one being lodged in the countertop and another being in the trash compactor. The bullet in the cabinet is suspected to have gone through the cabinet face and rested on the inside shelf. Another bullet was lodged in a countertop and a bullet fragment was found under two layers of trash.
The bullet fragment found in the garbage was resting in the middle of the trash compactor and under a paper plate, which was under the Smith's receipt (for two steaks and two bottles of Absolut vodka) and under the plastic wrapped/styrofoam plates in which the steaks came packaged. Detective Dreller stated that he found no signs of ricochet or other penetration by the bullet in or through the trash compactor.
Detective Dreller confirmed that he found six shell casings and that there was a total of eight bullets found on scene or inside my Father (IE: two shell casings are missing). Detective Dreller also discussed how "blow back" of blood can occur and get on the shooter if the person is standing close enough. He confirmed that no blood was found on Candice or her clothes.
Also discussed in length was the matter of "stippling" which is when the unburned gunpowder is expelled along with the projectile and if the victim is close enough, it will embed the particles in the skin or on his clothes. However, if the victim is 2-3' away (with the use of a .32 semi-automatic), stippling would not typically be found on the body or clothes of the victim.
Detective Dreller confirmed there were no signs of a struggle and that the blood splatters found to the right of my Father and between his feet and the trash compactor were a brighter red than the blood around my Father's head and upper right chest. He stated that this means that the blood appears to be "oxygenated" which is an indication this blood had passed through the lungs and heart and back out to the body.
Photos were shown of my Father's face and Detective Dreller confirmed that not a single droplet of blood was disturbed on his face and that no blood around my Father was touched. In addition, Detective Dreller stated that no fertilizer had been found in or around the home and that no gardening had appeared to have occurred.
Detective Dreller discussed a Keltec .32 caliber, semi-automatic handgun retrieved from a nightstand in the master bedroom. This gun was a "twin" to another Keltec and both gun's receipts were entered into evidence. The other Keltec, semi-automatic .32 caliber has not been found.
The conclusion of Detective Dreller's testimony involved the clothing that Candice had given him the night of the murder. Detective Dreller had observed Candice wearing a yellow, logo-ed T-Shirt and jean shorts (the same that appeared on the Smith's video). The next day, when he checked the video and the clothes, he found that the T-Shirt was a different shade of yellow with a different logo.
A second Search Warrant was issued and several detectives searched the home and Detective Dreller was given another yellow T-Shirt from atop the clothes hamper in the master bedroom closet. This second T-Shirt was admitted into evidence as the shirt Candice was wearing in the Smith's video and the shirt she had on when the detectives/police were in the home.
Cross Examination: Detective Dreller confirmed he received consent to swab Candice's hands and take some preliminary pictures of the crime scene. Jason Steffen, the second Public Defender stated that Candice was an agricultural biologist. He asked if a Pastor was called and if Detective Dreller ever saw him arrive. Detective Dreller stated that he did not see a Pastor arrive.
Mr. Steffen produced an itinerary for my Father and Candice to go to Georgia that week The trip was for a departure out of Los Angeles on September 6th at 8:30 a.m. to Atlanta and a return on September 10th (for a family reunion for Candice's cousin). Detective Dreller confirmed his knowledge of said document and it was submitted into evidence.
Mr. Steffen asked if Detective Dreller swabbed any of the blood around my Father to test for someone else's blood and Detective Dreller stated that based on his experience and training the blood was only from the victim. When asked if the blood could be from other people, Detective Dreller answered "yes". Also, the knife at my Father's feet was not tested for blood and Detective Dreller stated that based on the shell casings found at the crime scene and that the knife was consistent with cutting the steak, he did not feel it necessary to test the knife.
When asked about the GSR (gun shot residue) test, Detective Dreller reiterated that he has "no faith" in the tests as they are not very accurate and there is no set standard from agency to agency, or from state to state.
Detective Dreller confirmed that the bullet pulled from the cabinet was of a different material than the bullets found in the body (IE: a different type of metal jacket on the bullet). Also, he confirmed that only six of eight casings were found. He also confirmed the finding of approximately 12 pistols and several rifles in the home. One of the guns was determined to be a Tech Nine automatic gun and Mr. Steffen proceeded to state that this was a type of firearm used by criminals. Detective Dreller stated there was no real known gang activity in the area and that he had no knowledge that the Tech Nine firearm was used by criminals.
Detective Dreller testified that the Keltec he recovered from the nightstand would hold seven rounds in its "clip" and that the loaded Keltec held Full Metal Jacket cartridges (bullets).
Mr. Steffan asked if Detective Dreller
was familiar with a Derringer and that a Derringer could discharge two bullets
without releasing the casings and he said "yes".
DAY FOUR - Thursday, August 13, 2009
(continuation of Detective Dreller's testimony)
Re-Direct: The Prosecutor, Mr. Huss, asked Detective Dreller if he found any evidence of evasive action and he answered "no". Detective Dreller stated that my Father was "basically cornered" and in the "worst possible place". Detective Dreller had no explanation for the bullet in the trash and that he felt the attacker had moved "through the scene" while shooting.
Re-Cross: Mr. Steffen asked a few more questions and Detective Dreller testified that he did not know how tall the shooter was, that he did not know the ejection pattern of the gun, that he did not know how the gun was held and that he did not find any blood on the clothing.
After the brief re-visit with Detective Dreller, the next witness was Dr. Rexene Worrell, Medical Examiner for Mohave County. Dr. Worrell is a Forensic Pathologist and initiated the autopsy on September 04, 2009 at 11:00 a.m. Her report was signed off on September 28th.
Dr. Worrell explained her autopsy process that begins with a review of the scene inspection report and continues with a complete external review for unique traits. She inspects for any injuries, takes measurements and finishes with her intricate internal exam.
Trajectory paths of the bullets are determined by the abrasions on the skin around the entrance wound, by stippling (unburned gun powder) around the wound and by the path of damage inside the body itself. If there are no abrasions on one side or the other of the wound or the abrasion is concentric (meaning evenly circular), then the bullet would have entered in a perpendicular or near-perpendicular position. If an abrasion is on the upside of the wound, then the bullet would have entered from above and so on.
Dr. Worrell located five "defects" or wounds and found my Father to be 73 years old, 6'2" and weighing 210 pounds. She found no defensive injuries and one tattoo on his leg (a youthful ode to an ex-girlfriend's initials).
Dr. Worrell described each of the wounds. Please keep in mind the following when considering the description of the wounds:
* The list of the wounds are only
in the order that she inspected the wounds, not in the order they occurred
* Dr. Worrell had no idea as to my Father's position at the time of the attack. If a bullet entered perpendicular, it just means the gun was
somewhat level with the entry wound - whether my Father was standing up or lying down or somewhere in between, the Medical Examiner
does not make that determination.
* A small caliber bullet (like a .32) can be easily deflected and the Track or path can be altered.
Wound #1: The projectile (bullet) entered in just below and behind the right ear and en route, clipped the ear lobe. The wound had a concentric ring of abrasion and therefore, Dr. Worrell determined that the projectile entered with no angle, or perpendicular. She found no evidence of stippling and determined that this shot was not made close to my Father. In other words, this shot was taken from several feet away.
The Track of the bullet was front to back, passing through the main function of the brain and lodging at the base of the left side of the skull. This injury was considered fatal and would have been immediately incapacitating and would have dropped my Father to the floor. His heart could have continued to beat and he could have continued to breathe; however, he would have been unconscious and probably brain dead. Blood would have been visible after my Father was prone on the floor.
Wound #2: The bullet entered in the neck, just at the right side of the collar bone. The wound had a concentric ring of abrasion and therefore, Dr. Worrell determined that the projectile entered with no angle, or perpendicular. She found no evidence of stippling and determined that this shot was not made close to my Father.
The Track of the bullet was front to back and downward with the bullet passing through the upper right lobe of the right lung, through the esophagus, through the aorta, between #6 and #7 ribs and lodging at the spinal bones. This injury was considered fatal and would have rendered my Father unconscious in 15-20 seconds and fatal in 1-2 minutes. As this was considered an arterial wound, the blood would have been under pressure and would have abruptly exited the wound.
This blood was oxygenated (as it came from the aorta which carries the blood out of the heart after it comes from the lungs), and therefore this blood would be brighter red in color. Because the blood was under pressure, there would be an immediate "blow back" of blood and the blood would be ejected outside of the body. Dr. Worrell confirmed that the large drops of blood that were on the floor by my Father's lower right leg and between this leg and the open trash compactor were "consistent" with what would be expected with blood coming from Wound #2.
Wound #3: The bullet entered at the upper right chest, just in front of the armpit. The wound had a concentric ring of abrasion and therefore, Dr. Worrell determined that the projectile entered with no angle, or perpendicular. She found no evidence of stippling and determined that this shot was not made close to my Father.
The Track of the bullet was slightly to the left and downward with the bullet passing through the 3rd rib, through the lung and lodging right behind the 12th rib. This injury was not considered fatal and it was survivable, if treated quickly. As no major artery hit, there would not have been significant bleeding, but rather an ooze as my Father was laying on the floor.
Wound #4: The bullet entered at the right side of his chest, a few inches below Wound #3. The wound did not have a concentric ring of abrasion as its abrasion was on the upper side of the wound. Dr. Worrell determined the bullet entered from my Father's upper side of his body (remember, the Doctor does not know what position my Father was in). She found no evidence of stippling and determined that this shot was not made close to my Father.
The Track of the bullet proceeded in a downward angle through his diaphragm, liver, stomach, pancreas and just stopping in the nook of the left kidney (called the "hilum"). This injury was not considered immediately incapacitating and could have been survivable. As no major artery hit, there would not have been significant bleeding, but rather an ooze as my Father was laying on the floor.
Wound #5: The bullet entered at the lower right chest, at the base of the rib cage (just a couple of inches below Wound #4). The wound did not have a concentric ring of abrasion as its abrasion was on the upper side of the would. Dr. Worrell determined the bullet entered from my Father's upper side of his body and she found no evidence of stippling and determined that this shot was not made close to my Father.
The Track of the bullet was downward through the chest, the diaphragm, the liver and stopping just at the spinal column (L-4) and was a front to back direction. This injury was not considered fatal and it was survivable, if treated quickly. As no major artery hit, there would not have been significant bleeding, but rather an ooze as my Father was laying on the floor.
Dr. Worrell stated that there were no exit wounds. She also confirmed that my Father's Blood Alcohol Level (BAC) was .16 (keep in mind, my Father had finished his 4:00 p.m. libation of his savored martini). Also, the Doctor testified that there were no medications or other drugs in my Father's system at the time of his death, therefore confirming that my Father's death was from "multiple gunshot wounds".
Cross Examination: Ms. Lacy asked if Dr. Worrell could say with "certainty" that the blood on the floor came from my Father and his wounds and the Doctor replied that she "could not" say with certainty.
The State (Prosecutor) filed a Motion in limine (pronounced "lim-en-ay") which is a motion made before or during a trial requesting that the judge rule that certain evidence may or may not be introduced to the jury. The term "in limine" means that it will be for the Judge to decide. This motion is usually filed in order to keep the jury from hearing potentially prejudicial evidence.
In this case, the State wanted to restrict or block the defense from referring to Candice's video taped statements to the police during their expert's testimony. In other words, the defense has a neuro-psychologist (Dr. Sullivan) testifying and this "expert" may use Candice's video taped statements to show distinct behavior related to "chronic alcoholism".
This defense is not trying to show a reason for the murder but rather, to show why Candice's behavior was so "odd" after the brutal murder of her husband. It was partly because of this behavior as well as quite a bit of other evidence, that finally led the detectives to suspect Candice of committing this heinous crime.
The State and the Defense both stated their reference cases that supported their motion and response (respectively) and the Judge ruled that Dr. Sullivan may use the video taped statements as reference to support his opinion as to Candice's behavior; however, Dr. Sullivan cannot make any reference as to Candice's state of mind at the time of the murder. Basically, Dr. Sullivan can testify to Candice's overall demeanor as related to being an alcoholic and the video can be used to document Dr. Sullivan's findings for the basis of his opinion.
In the afternoon, we heard from Evan Thompson, a Criminalist and firearms examiner. I would characterize him as an expert in ballistics. Mr. Thompson stated that he looks for "individual characteristics" in the rifling of guns which are unique tool marks, imperfections, etc. that are left or transferred to the casing of the cartridge. (note: What we laypeople call a "bullet" is really a cartridge that contains a shell casing and the jacketed projectile, with the projectile being what we would probably think of as the bullet).
Rifling is common throughout the manufacturing process of the gun and creates "lands and grooves". These microscopic striations transfer to the bullet and create a unique "fingerprint" from the gun used. (If you would like to learn more about this process, go to http://www.fbi.gov/hq/lab/fsc/backissu/april2000/schehl1.htm#Rifling. It is a very interesting summary provided by the FBI).
Also, Mr. Thompson looks for "class characteristics" that can exist, even if the individual characteristics do not match. If "individual characteristics" match, Mr. Thompson can ascertain the cartridges came from the same gun. If the individual characteristics do not match; however, the "class characteristics" are similar or match, Mr. Thompson can give the opinion that the same gun could have been used or that the cartridges were the same.
Mr. Thompson had received several pieces of evidence to review:
SW10 - bullet fragment - Winchester Western Silvertip
hollow-point (2.1 grains)
SW17 - bullet - fired round - .32 caliber Winchester Western Silvertip hollow-point (60.2 grains)
SW18 - bullet - fired round - .32 caliber Full Metal Jacket (73.6 grains)
121-9 - bullet - fired round - .32 caliber Winchester Western Silvertip hollow-point (60.3 grains) (Track/Wound #4)
121-10 - bullet - fired round - .32 caliber Winchester Western Silvertip hollow-point (60.4 grains) (Track/Wound #5)
121-11 - bullet - fired round - .32 caliber Winchester Western Silvertip hollow-point (60.4 grains) (Track/Wound #3)
121-12 - bullet - fired round - .32 caliber Winchester Western Silvertip hollow-point (60.4 grains) (Track/Wound #2)
121-13 - jacket, no core - fired round - .32 caliber Winchester Western Silvertip hollow-point (8.7 grains) (Track/Wound #1)
Mr. Thompson confirmed the following:
Mr. Thompson also received a Keltec, semi-automatic .32 caliber pistol (that was one of two almost identical guns purchased by my Father in 2001. The differences between the two guns was their color and a smaller grip on one of the guns). Mr. Thompson testified to the following:
Cross Examination: Mr. Steffen confirmed that only six bullets were intact. The bullet that did not have its core should have weighed less (about 2 grains total, not 8.7 grains) according to the manufacturer (Winchester), if the partial bullet was indeed a Winchester Western Silvertip hollow-point .32 caliber. Mr. Thompson responded that there was some other inert material on the remaining jacket that could account for the additional grain weight.
Mr. Thompson concurred that a two-fragment bullet could not fit perfectly together and that it could be two different bullets (making a ninth bullet). He also stated that it is "possible" that the bullet identified with similar "class characteristics" could be from a different gun.
In addition, Mr. Thompson testified that the holster was not made specifically for a Keltec handgun and that no blood or trace material was on the holster. Also, as bullets lose velocity as they travel, the ricochets may be lessened or non-existent.
Re-Direct: Mr. Thompson stated that when he has test fired Silvertips and Full Metal Jacket cartridges from the same gun and immediately examined them under a microscope, he has not been able to scientifically determine that they were fired from the same gun (even though he fired them himself just moments before). Mr. Thompson reiterated that dissimilar metals have a different rifling transference.
Mr. Thompson was asked if he can explain the bullet fragment being in the trash compactor under two layers of garbage and no ricochet marks and he stated that the fragment could be there either by being placed there before the garbage or by ricochet off the ceiling. (note, there were no marks on the ceiling in the kitchen area).
Making the most of the day, we heard from another witness, Detective Clint Campbell (who was the Detective that notified me of my Father's death). He was the Case Officer assigned to the case and was the Detective (along with Detective Cindy Slack) that interviewed Candice at the police department.
Detective Campbell escorted Candice to the police department at about 7:45 p.m. and noted her demeanor was very subtle, withdrawn and without emotion. He stated that Candice was not acting like "they would expect".
Cross Examination: Ms. Lacy asked if this was Mr. Campbell's first homicide as a Case Officer and he said "yes". Detective Campbell and Candice arrived at the police station at 7:55 p.m. and the interview started at 8:50 p.m. Detective Campbell confirmed that Candice was arrested around 4:00 a.m. the next morning.
Ms. Lacy asked if the contractors and their employees were interviewed in connection with the murder and Detective Campbell said that the ones that they had listed as having gone to the home were interviewed. Ms. Lacy specifically named Jason Palosaari and his employees and Detective Campbell stated that only Mr. Palosaari had been at the home once to write an estimate and that he stated he was never contacted again.
Re-Direct: Mr. Huss asked Detective Campbell to confirm that Candice was taken to a "soft room" the police use to interview witnesses, victims, children, etc. and that within the police department, people are escorted through the secured area for their own safety and the safety of the employees.
Concluding a very involved day was the testimony of Detective Sergeant Troy Stirling. He verified that he responded to the murder at 9:30 p.m. and that the area of Bear Drive is a very quiet area inhabited mainly by retirees. Sgt. Stirling testified that he walked through the house and found the doors and windows locked (except for the kitchen, dining and laundry room areas). He also confirmed that there were no signs of forced entry and that "the dog" was outside the kitchen/dining room door and was very agitated.
Sgt. Stirling stated that he observed a wallet with money in it on a shelf by the laundry room entrance and a gun in a holster hanging from the same shelf. Sgt. Stirling did not see signs of a struggle.
Cross Examination: Ms. Lacy asked what it is that the Case Officer does and Sgt. Stirling replied that the Case Officer is responsible for putting everything together and providing the supplements. Sgt. Stirling confirmed that the "victim's daughter" (IE: me) brought items of evidence (photos and documents) to the detectives. Ms. Lacy had Sgt. Stirling confirm one of those items was a receipt from Walgreens from early in the day that included the purchase of two bottles of Absolut Vodka and three packages of KY Jelly. (please note, this was in addition to the two bottles of Absolut purchased at Smith's during Candice's 10:00ish visit, which was just made just after the Walgreens visit the same day).
DAY FIVE - Friday, August 15, 2009
A bit of a late start brought the gavel down at 10:00 a.m. The first "civilian" witness was Bob Kummelehne, a retired Captain from the Los Angeles County Fire Department and a good friend of my Father's since the 1970's. Bob lives in Lake Havasu and spent a lot of time with my Father.
Bob made the following points:
Cross Examination: Ms. Lacy asked if the dog would bark when people approach and Bob said "yes". She asked if Bob knew what Candice was sick with in Prescott and Bob stated "altitude sickness" he thought. Bob agreed that Bill could have hired people to help him move but did not think badly of Bill for not hiring people to help. Bob agreed that he was not a psychologist.
Next up was another friend of my Father's, Keith Jensen, who had known my Father for 35-40 years on the LA County FD. Keith was called as a defense witness and was under subpoena to testify. Keith stated the following:
Cross Examination: Keith confirmed he had not see my Dad for six weeks before that Thursday night as he had been on vacation and then Dad had been on vacation. He stated that during the 30 minutes on Thursday, he did not have much interaction with Candice and that the breakfast the next morning was a meeting at the restaurant. Keith stated he knew that Candice would wear a gun while riding a horse and that her hat rack had a handgun hanging from it.
Keith confirmed that Bill did not talk about personal issues and that firefighters tend to do things themselves.
Re-Direct: Ms. Lacy asked what kind of gun did Candice have at house and Keith stated a "six shooter".
At this point, Detective Cindy Slack of the Lake Havasu Police Department took the stand to introduce the 911 call and the video interview with Candice. I will not be able to translate all that was said; however, I will give the highlights as I feel that you, the reader, can find how they relate to the evidence presented.
911 Call - The first call that came into 911 was answered by the dispatcher and the person on the other end hung up the phone. The dispatcher immediately dialed back to the house that called and no one answered the phone. The dispatcher again dialed the phone (7:06 p.m.) and Candice picked up the call. (please keep in mind that Candice had paid her bill at Smith's at 6:13 and it was approximately 6 1/2 minutes to drive home).
Here is what Candice said in the order the comments were made:
Video Taped Interview - The video taped interview started about about 8:40 p.m. and went on to the arrest which occurred at 4:00 a.m. the next morning. We watched a good portion of the interview and all I can say is that I was stunned. Her demeanor was calm, disinterested, detached and just plain masculine. Throughout the interview, Candice sat with her legs wide apart and stretched out and she slouched in the chair. If I did not know better, I would think I was watching the mannerisms of a man.
Another head-shaking thing was that while Candice was sitting in the "soft-room" in the police station (and being video taped), she just sat stretched out and relaxed. She had her head on her hand and no crying, no sobbing, no pacing, no nothing. Just sitting as though she were already bored with the whole thing. Even when the detectives enter the room, she does not get up and ask about my Father, she just sits there and waits for their questions. Very, very odd.
Candice reiterated her story and simply stated, she says that they had a normal day of Dad putzing around the garage building shelves and her doing laundry, packing and getting ready for their trip later that week (with no mention of the gardening she told the detectives at the house). They had their 3 o'clock pool time, 4 o'clock martini with Duffie and Dad was just beginning to trim the steaks for dinner.
She repeated that while trimming the steaks, Dad asked her to go the store and buy more meat and that is what she did. She estimated her time in Smith's to be 35-40 minutes and that she went there, wandered around the store and came home to him on the floor with blood around him. (Keep in mind that she was in the store nine minutes and that she went right in and came right out, with a driving detour around the trash bins).
Candice states she blacked out between when she got home and saw my Father and when she called 911 and that she felt badly that she did not do more to try and help him.
Throughout the interview, she reiterates the 3-4-5 routine (3-pool, 4-martini, 5-dinner) and her going to the store (which was after 6:00 p.m.). Candice talked about my Father being "better than a handyman" and that he could make a martini last a "long time". She confirmed that he was not a drunk and would have one, maybe two martinis, depending on how he made them.
Candice spoke of their meeting through Match.com and that people she knew thought my Father was "terrific". When asked if my Father ever struck her, Candice replied he "never struck me" and that he would get mad at inanimate objects and that was "as bad as it would get".
She told of her marriages and that her first husband died of cancer (well after her divorce), that her second husband is still alive and that her third husband died and she was a widow. The third husband died while Candice was working at Los Angeles Airport and he was living in Fresno. She stated they were still married, yet only spoke with him "once a week or so". It was Candice that called the police to go and check on him and found him dead for about a week when they did so. Candice admitted that she had seen him about a week before. (no further investigation can be made into that death).
When asked about if Bill had any children, Candice responded that he had two daughters and when asked if she liked them, she replied she "liked Louise" (don't I feel special).
Candice discussed that she "never liked the idea of keeping a gun in (her) car" and that she knew my Father had a pistol in his dresser drawer. When asked to describe the holster, she described a small, "flimsy" black one and not a hard leather one (the flimsy one was the holster found in her truck). Candice volunteered that she absolutely had not shot a gun since she obtained her concealed weapons permit in May 2004 and stated this more than once.
She admitted that she was in an alcohol detox facility in February 2007 and that she missed cocktail time so she went back to drinking. She also talked about the contractors that had come into the house a couple of weeks before because of the water damage they came home to when they returned early from their vacation. She specifically stated that a contractor got upset about the guns and that she and my Father had to move them out of the way.
Candice said that she was a "shotgun person" and that she was not interested in pistols. She again described the "velcro case thing" used as a holster and that she "maybe" had picked up the holster and gun.
There were other portions of the interview that were not shown to the jury; however, I have the transcripts and the interview continues on the same track. She was soon read her Miranda rights and placed under arrest.
Detective Cindy Slack described Candice's demeanor as "flat line", "detached" and "unemotional" and no major change throughout the entire time in the police department.
DAY 6 - Monday, August 17, 2009
Cross Examination: Ms. Lacy asked Detective Slack if there were drive-by shootings or a "drug culture in Lake Havasu and Detective Slack said that there have been 1-2 shootings and most drug deals are one-on-one. Detective Slack acknowledged there is a group called "GITUM" that stands partially for "Gang International Team...) that coordinates with other cities for gang violence.
Detective Slack had interviewed the contractor that removed the water damaged building material from the home and agreed that he "saw guns" and that my Father signed an agreement to secure the guns.
Ms. Lacy introduced a photo of the garage and asked Detective Slack to confirm that the detectives had received two boxes from me that contained ammunition and other miscellaneous items. Ms. Lacy stated the shelves seemed "easily accessible" and was Detective Slack "aware of boxes searched". Detective Slack stated that she did not personally search the house.
Ms. Lacy confirmed that the detectives found one .32 caliber Full Metal Jacket bullet in one of the boxes and Detective Slack was unable to remember which box.
Detective Slack confirmed that Candice did not ask about my Father unless "prompted" and that she had a flat-line demeanor. Detective Slack stated that Candice told the detectives that her last meal was 11:00 a.m. and that she had some drinks. Also, there were several breaks during the interview and Detectives Slack and Campbell went back to the house. Candice never asked for anything to eat. Detective Slack said she "believed (Candice) was lying" in her statements.
Ms. Lacy asked Detective Slack if she had ever pulled into a parking lot and realized there was a "banger" next to you and moved? Detective Slack answered "yes". Detective Slack was also asked what direct evidence she felt tied Candice to the murder and she responded "the holster and the video".
Detective Slack confirmed that the GSR (with swabs) is not done in Arizona and that even after questioning, Candice did not confess. She also stated that homicide is "more likely by someone the victim knows" and agreed there were no eye witnesses, no confession and no weapon.
Re-Direct: Mr. Huss asked if an alcohol reading was taken and Detective Slack said "yes" and that it is used as an "investigative tool". Detective Slack noticed odor of liquor on breath and slurring of speech and stated that she and Detective Campbell did not eat during the entire interview. She confirmed that they had given Candice water several times and Candice never said she was hungry or tired.
Detective Slack stated that "GITUM" covers entire county.
Re-Cross: Ms. Lacy stated a .32 caliber R&P bullet was found in box and Detective Slack agreed.
The following person was a witness for the defense. Dr. James Sullivan is a PHD in Clinical Psychology and is Board Certified in Forensic and Clinical Neuro-psychology. Per Dr. Sullivan, Neuro-psychology rests upon the foundation of testing and assessment and stated that Candice's behavior in the video was a bit bizarre and "idiosyncratic" (unusual, unique, bizarre, strange).
Dr. Sullivan stated the following:
Cross Examination: Mr. Huss completed the cross examination of Dr. Sullivan.
Re-Direct: Ms. Lacy asked if the brain damage happened over time and Dr. Sullivan stated that it was "not acquired immediately". He also stated that it takes many years of drinking and would get "worse and worse".
Dr. Sullivan stated that it is more common for the brain damaged person to become passive, but not always. Also, that verbal and mental recall could be affected by a traumatic event and that there will be variability in memory disruption.
The next witness was a prosecution witness, Jacque Moore, married to Tim Moore and lives nearby 4000 Bear Drive. Ms. Moore stated the following:
Cross Examination: Ms. Lacy asked Ms. Moore if "any of three streets bring you into that area? "yes"
Mr. Tim Moore was the next prosecution witness and he had this to add:
Another prosecution witness was Debbie Tyler, who lives a couple of houses up the street from 4000 Bear Drive. Here are her brief observations:
Cross Examination: Ms. Lacy asked about Ms. Tyler's previous written statement and that at that time, Ms. Tyler thought shots coming from S.A.R.A Park Range and "did not think much of it". Also, that Ms. Tyler assumed yelling and barking coming from nearby dog kennel. Ms. Tyler confirmed she heard sawing in the garage at 4000 Bear Drive and garage door was open during the day.
Re-Direct: Ms. Tyler stated that the yelling was "frantic" and like trying to quiet dog.
Jan Truelsen came on the stand and had this to say:
Cross Examination: Ms. Lacy asked Ms. Truelsen if she was a marriage counselor and Ms. Truelsen answered "no". She was also asked if she ever had an argument with anyone else (yes) and if she ever had a client cut her hair really short (yes).
Re-Direct: Mr. Huss asked about the dosage of the testosterone and Ms. Truelsen stated that it sounded like a "high dosage to (her)".
Witness Dottie Blanks was next and she stated the following:
Cross Examination: Ms. Lacy asked Ms. Blanks to confirm that Bill and Candice would carry guns while "out and about" and that Candice was a "calm lady".
Gloria Benjamin took the stand next and here are her words:
Cross Examination: None
Final witness (phew!) for the day was Candice's mother, Donna Boeckman. Ms. Boeckman gave these statements:
Cross Examination: Ms. Lacy had a rather lengthy cross examination:
Re-Direct: Mr. Huss confirmed that Ms. Boeckman never spoke to my Father for permission to review Trust and that Candice was the one that said it was OK.
DAY 7 - Tuesday, August 18, 2009 upcoming
This day started off especially tense for me as it was my turn to face the jury and tell my tale. With the expert guidance of the prosecutor, Jeremy Huss, I was able to explain the following:
Cross Examination: Ms. Lacy introduced Candice's Will that showed she signed her assets over to my Father's Trust (except for the mineral rights) and showed pictures of the Prescott house. I explained that Prescott house a mile out of town, at end of asphalt road and neighbor's house visible in picture.
Ms. Lacy asked me if I knew that Candice left Prescott because of altitude sickness and I stated that "I was told that she had altitude sickness". Candice had gun hanging by door, six shooter type and it did fit with my idea of a cowboy image.
Re-Direct: Mr. Huss asked me is the Will was a signed copy and I said "yes", but I did not remember seeing it in all the papers I provided to the detectives. The Will does not include the mineral rights and the total net assets of Candice would total about $100,000.
After me, came Mike Konen, a realtor out on a bike ride with his sons. He stated the following:
Cross Examination: Ms. Lacy questioned that Mr. Konen saw truck in driveway and about 10 minutes later saw police per 1st statement. Mr. Konen said that statement was unlikely because it took longer than that to get to where he was going and to come back. Ms. Lacy asked him about his car getting broken into and he stated that he did not think it was "breaking into" when the car was unlocked.
Witness: Detective Cindy Slack returned to the stand and confirmed that Mike Konen saw police about 10 minutes and that red truck had come up Bear Drive.
THE STATE RESTS
The next witness was for the defense and it was Wanda Russell. Ms. Russell stated the following:
Cross Examination: Mr. Huss asked if Ms. Russell had seen Candice drink and she stated that she did not really see Candice drink. Also, Ms. Russell was surprised there was an alcohol issue and that she only saw Bill and Candice maybe two times after they moved to Bear Drive.
Another defense witness, Andrea Janus, had a few brief statements to make:
Cross Examination: Mr. Huss asked if July 4th, 2007 was the last time she saw either Candice or Bill and Ms. Janus said "yes". She confirmed that she saw no strange behavior, no inappropriate behavior, no callous behavior and that they seemed to get along.
The last witness to take the stand was Sgt. Irvine of the Lake Havasu Police Department. Sgt. Irvine was part of a group of officers assigned to search the area around Bear Drive and on the track to Smith's foods for a gun. They were traveling on ATV's and did not find any gun. Sgt. Irvine stated that the search was "just visual".
Cross Examination: Mr. Huss asked Sgt. Irvine if there are a number of places where a gun can be "stashed" and Sgt. Irvine replied "yes". Mr. Huss also asked if there is a "lake" as in Lake Havasu nearby and Sgt. Irvine replied "yes".
THE DEFENSE RESTS
A question was presented from the jury about a map of Lake Havasu and the area around Bear Drive and to Smith's Foods. Ironically enough, we (as in my friend Sheri Staley and Bob Kummelehne's girlfriend, Monika Gridley and myself) had arranged to get a map to Mr. Huss just that morning. As it turned out, he submitted the map to the judge and it was accepted into evidence. It was fortunate that Sheri and Monika saw the importance of a map of the area to show the strange driving route that Candice took to get home.
Detective Cindy Slack verified the map's content was an accurate depiction of Lake Havasu and the jury was released for the day.
All but the jury returned at 3:30 p.m. to discuss the Jury Instructions and any other matters relating to the trial. The defense filed a Rule 20 Motion, wherein they stated that the State did not produce enough evidence and that there should be a Judgment of Acquittal. Judge Rick Williams heard both sides and ruled against the defense stating that even though his decision is not defining guilt or innocence, there is enough evidence for the jury to render a decision and that they can do so on circumstantial evidence.
The Jury Instructions were discussed and the defense was denied a few requests to alter wording in pre-approved instruction language. Also, a particular instruction was not altered because the Judge felt that the court was not convinced that any missed evidence would exonerate Candice and therefore, there was no reason to apply Standard 10 (something to do with Willets).
Judge Williams overruled the defense's objection to the allowance of a lesser charge so the jury can consider 1st degree murder and 2nd degree murder in their deliberations. Judge Williams stated that he understood the defense wanted an "all or nothing" verdict; however, the jury has to be given the chance to and has the right to find a lesser included charge and it is appropriate.
Within the Jury Instructions is the language that states that between Direct and Circumstantial Evidence the "law makes no distinction" and therefore, they are to be treated and weighed equally.
Mr. Huss wanted an instruction that voluntary intoxication is not a defense (diminished capacity) and that has been inferred in the instructions. Also, Mr. Huss wanted it pointed out that the determination of Miranda was a decision made by the court; however, Judge Williams stated he would take a "wait and see" stance and if a juror asked about it, he would then respond.
The court adjourned with Jury Instructions and Closing Statements to be presented tomorrow.
DAY EIGHT - August 19, 2009
The day began with stipulating Juror #11 as an alternate because on the second day of the trial, she had stated that she had a conflict with her schedule in the second week. Both the prosecution and the defense felt she would be distracted and could be designated as the alternate.
FINAL JURY INSTRUCTIONS:
The jury was read (and received) the final jury instructions. This is only a snippet of what was discussed:
The closing arguments start first with the prosecution, then the defense and then a rebuttal by the prosecution.
Prosecution: Jeremy Huss started off the morning with a lengthy summation:
Mr. Huss based his description of the murder on the evidence provided by the Medical Examiner and Detective Dreller.
Defendant got the
small caliber Keltec out of its holster and threw the holster into the back seat
of her truck. Between 4-5 p.m., the
defendant stood in front of Bill Wright in the dining room and while he was preparing dinner, takes 1st shot in body. Bill Wright moves down
and two more shots. Dog is in or out, but not near Bill. Candice continues to advance and he drops the knife at his feet and Candice takes
another shot and this one strikes Bill's neck. Candice keeps walking, Bill's neck is bleeding, and takes last shot into Bill's head.
Mr. Huss explained a few things to the jury in order to assist them in understanding what they should be looking for and how they should view the evidence.
Continuing on with the evidence, Mr. Huss hammered his points:
Mr. Huss had a lot to say about the gun evidence:
Then, we got introduced the "alibi":
Mr. Huss emphasized that defendant was distancing herself from hand guns, deceptive about alibi and about idyllic relationship.
And then, there were the miscellaneous pieces of evidence that continued to color in the picture:
Mr. Huss finished his initial Closing Argument; however, before Ms. Lacy could start her Closing Argument, a matter had to be taken up by Judge Williams. Apparently, Juror #10 had mentioned something to her husband about the case and her husband, who happens to work as an independent contractor maintaining the telephone lines at the county jail, was overheard stating that his wife was on the jury and that she said "there was not enough evidence to convict".
Judge Williams took this matter very seriously and brought in Juror #10 and asked her a few questions. She stated that she just mentioned her day in passing and did not provide any detail to her husband. She also stated that she still had an open mind and had not "formed an opinion" as to how she was going to vote. The Judge stated that the rule to not discuss the case with "anyone" was probably impossible to keep from breaking with your spouse and relied on the prosecution and defense to decide whether to keep Juror #10.
Both Mr. Huss and Ms. Lacy felt it acceptable to keep the juror; however, Mr. Huss withdrew his stipulation about Juror #11 be used as an alternate and instead, agreed to have a full lottery for choosing the alternate.
Defense: Then it became Ms. Carlene Lacy's turn to make her Closing Argument:
Prosecution - Rebuttal Closing Argument: Fortunately, after Ms. Lacy's attempt to confuse, mislead and otherwise try to justify lies (her closing argument was one of the few times I really got angry at the justice system as I did not realize the defense could tell a blatant lie and have no repercussion), it was the Prosecution's turn to rebut and refute. Mr. Huss did us proud!
With the conclusion of Mr. Huss's rebuttal argument, we breathed a sigh of relief as he reiterated the truth back into the closings and we felt the jury "got it". Judge Williams ended the suspense with the deliberation rules to the jury:
And with that, the alternate was chosen by the very "formal" use of writing the names on scraps of paper and placing them in a metal box. A court employee shook the box and pulled out Juror #11. Now, you may be familiar with that particular juror as she was the one that on the first day of the trial stated she may not be able to serve the entire trial because of a previous engagement and the prosecution and the defense stipulated that she could be designated as the alternate. The irony of her being picked as the alternate and being allowed to leave early was not lost on us.
The court was dismissed at just a little after 2:00 p.m. and then the long wait began (or so we thought). All of my Father's supporters went to have a late lunch and contemplate and discuss how the trial went and to hope for the best and prepare for the worst. It was not long before we found ourselves too restless to remain in the restaurant and some decided to go back to court and watch other hearings. Gerson, my friend, Sheri and I tucked ourselves in a quiet waiting room provided by the Victim's Witness group attached to the Mohave County Attorney's office to await "the call" that the jurors had reached a verdict.
At 4:38 p.m., I received a call from the prosecutor's office that the jurors had reached a verdict. I do not remember walking across the street and into the courthouse; however, I remember the concerned faces of Detective Slack, Prosecutor Jeremy Huss and those of my Father's friends there to lend their support. It was as though everything moved in slow motion and was surreal, much like that horrid day of September 2nd, 2007 when I first learned of my Father's death and the long drive to Lake Havasu.
We waited a short time for the last hearing to conclude and we entered into the courtroom. People were sitting in the front row and a few gentlemen graciously forfeited their seats so we could be front and center for the verdict.
Judge Williams acknowledged the people present and began his introduction to what was to be expected of the court and what was to be expected of us. Judge Williams stated that as there was a full courtroom, there would be people affected by the verdict on both sides. He asked that the proper court decorum be respected and to be aware of our reactions to the verdict.
Bob the Bailiff escorted the jury into the courtroom and the jurors crept into their familiar seats. Judge Williams confirmed that a unanimous decision was found and Juror #7, the foreman, handed the one-page Verdict Form to the Bailiff. The form found its way to Judge Williams wherein he glanced at its contents and passed it along to the clerk.
As the gallery collectively inhaled, the clerk stood up to recite those anxiously awaited words:
"We, the Jury, duly
empanelled and sworn in the above-entitled cause, and upon our oaths, do find
on the charge of First Degree Murder, as follows: Not Guilty."
"We, the Jury, duly
empanelled and sworn in the above-entitled cause, and upon our oaths, do find
on the lesser-included offense of Second Degree Murder, as follows: GUILTY!!
At which time, I exploded to my feet and with my raised fisted fingers pointing toward me, I pumped my hand downward with the bold exclamation of "YES!!!" and subsequently collapsed back into my seat. With a single gulp of breath through what was to become body wracking shudders, I leaned forward and pointed to the killer and flatly shouted "You Murdered My Father!!!".
I had waited two long, hard years to say that to my Father's murderer and it felt exhilarating!
As I buried my shuddering body into the side of Gerson, the Guard standing at the courtroom's back doors came over to make certain I was not going to create any more of a scene and with Gerson's reassurance that he had control of me, the Guard moved back into his original position. What started as dry sobs, turned into muffled giddiness as adrenaline met happiness in that embrace.
Finding my upright position once again, I found the displeasured gaze of Judge Williams as he proceeded with the court's business (seriously folks, how can one possibly expect a victim to not react like a cork being released from a bottle that has been shaken for two years!).
As quickly as the verdict was read and my exclamation of truth was sounded, the Judge began to explain to the Jurors that their job was not quite done and the prosecution and the defense had another pair of statements to make to the jury. The attorneys were responsible for explaining the "aggravating circumstances" that the jurors were to vote upon and those voted upon "aggravating circumstances" would assist Judge Williams in determining the sentence applied to the murderer.
Mr. Huss outlined the eight items being evaluated as "proven" or "unproven" as aggravating circumstances and these items were (per the court record):
Mr. Huss emphasized the obvious of my Father's age, the use of a deadly weapon, the infliction of serious injury as well as the violated trust and emotional harm caused to the victim's family.
Jason Steffen stepped up for the defense, and when I say stepped up, I should say "stepped in" as a comment he made elicited audible immediate intakes of breaths from many of the jurors. Mr. Steffen casually touched on the circumstances that were the most questionable (IE: especially heinous, cruel or depraved, lying in wait, etc.) and then made a tactical error. When he walked into the aggravating circumstance of the extent of the physical, emotional and financial harm caused to the victim's immediate family, he flippantly acknowledged there was an obvious emotional toll; however, that the immediate family (get ready for it) was better off financially now that my Father was dead. (insert sound of air being sucked in through 12 mouths of gritted teeth here).
The jury was again escorted from the room and Judge Williams, not wanting to keep the court's staff working later than necessary, moved right into the scheduling of the sentencing hearing. He listened to Ms. Lacy ask for an expedited sentencing due to the defendant's poor health and no objection was made by Mr. Huss (nor myself). Judge Williams searched his calendar and determined that the date of September 2nd, 2009 at 2:00 p.m. was a good fit in his schedule.
Like the wave performed by spectators at a sporting event, you could hear the ripple of whispered astonishment throughout the gallery as we all realized that date would be the two-year anniversary of my Father's Death. Judge Williams blankly looked out to us and you could almost see the light bulb burst above his head in recognition of what had just occurred.
Soon, the Jurors returned to their seats and you could see the relief on their faces. These likable examples of society made these determinations:
The jury was dismissed and I silently thanked each and every one of them. Once the last of them disappeared through their double doorway, hugs were locked all around. During which, we witnessed my Father's murderer being handcuffed and after being allowed a brief good-bye with her mother, she was escorted out of the courtroom. Candice showed absolutely no emotion.
Upon my departure from the courtroom, I purposely went over to Candice's mother, Donna Boeckman, and hugged her and told her that I hoped that she would have "many years of happier times than the past two years" and she in turn, stated she hoped "(I) could begin to heal". I responded that I was already healing and that I just wanted this to be over. I proceeded to hug Donna's step-daughter and her husband and they both sincerely expressed their apologies.
I exited the courtroom to an awaiting crowd of very happy people. Even a few of the Jurors remained behind to express their condolences and to perhaps receive assurance that of which they were "firmly convinced" was in fact, the truth. I assured them it was and thank-yous and more embraces were exchanged.
Speaking of thank-yous, I have to recognize the Lake Havasu City Police Department and the Detectives and Officers that made this case seem like it was personal and that they wanted justice almost as much as I did. And, of course, an immeasurable thank-you to the County Attorney's office, all of its employees and especially to Prosecutor Jeremy Huss and paralegal, Fay Towne for all their efforts to bring this verdict about. Also, a special thank you to Jeremy's family that understood and accepted his non-existence during this past month.
August 24, 2009
I have submitted my Victim's Impact Statement and other than the obvious as to the extent my Father's murder has effected his family and friends, I requested that Judge Williams ask the murderer if she would allocute or explain what happened, why it happened and perhaps, where she tossed the gun?
I do not really expect to have my questions answered; however, I did state that if Candice does cooperate, I would consider a lesser sentence, otherwise, I asked the Judge to show no mercy.
Sentencing Day - September 02, 2009 - the two-year anniversary of my Father's death
We walked into the courtroom a few minutes early and found the murderer, Candice, standing all alone in the latest Mohave county fashion of an orange and white striped jumpsuit. Even her own mother and the two family members with her, were not paying any attention to her and their body language was that of being almost repulsed by her (as they had their backs to her and poised their shoulders even more away from her gaze). As I have had over 20 years of experience dealing with people under stressful circumstances, I recognized how difficult it was for these people to be there and try to support a woman that so cold-bloodily murdered a very good man.
2:00 p.m. sharp the honorable Judge Rick A. Williams enters his courtroom and states that this hearing is for judgment and sentencing of the defendant, Candice Wright.
Prior to hearing statements from both sides, a preliminary matter had to be decided. I had requested that I be able to play my Father's montage video as part of my Victim's statement and the defense objected for the following reasons:
Fortunately, I had Prosecutor Jeremy Huss on my side and he responded:
Judge Williams agreed with the State and allowed the video montage to be played. The Judge first asked if "Candice Lynne Wright" was her real name and she stated "yes". He asked if she had read the pre-sentence documents and Candice said "yes".
The video montage was played in its entirety and the only person in the room that would not watch it was Candice. She kept her head down the entire time and again, showed little or no emotion. Once the video concluded, the Judge swiftly asked the defense if they had any statements to make.
Ms. Lacy stated the following:
Ms. Lacy also asked that particular aggravating factors be ignored or removed and these were:
Ms. Lacy asked that the aggravating factors be waived and that Candice should be sentenced to a mitigated term.
At this point, the defense concluded their statements and Candice's mother, Donna Boeckman agedly wobbled to stand. Ms. Boeckman stated the following:
A cousin, Lynn Williams, stood up and stated that she had known Candice all her life and that "(she) loved her". She also stated that Candice "is a kind person".
Lynn's husband, Mark, also stood up and stated that for 34 years he has known Candice as she was the Maid of Honor at their wedding, and never found her to be nothing but kind and generous to his family.
Judge Williams asked if anyone else wanted to say anything and no one else presented themselves. He then asked if Candice wanted to say anything and she stated "I would give anything for Bill Wright to be alive today". (Perhaps then, you should not have shot him, or so I thought to myself.)
Prosecutor, Jeremy Huss was ready with his statement and he outlined the following:
When Mr. Huss finished, Judge Williams asked me if I wanted to say anything and I deferred to having my Father's friends speak first. Mike Johnston, a long time friend of my Father's (and has known me since I was a kid), stood up and made a very compelling statement.
Mike told the court how he and my Father were Captains together on the Los Angeles County Fire Department and how they would discuss principle and argue policy all the time. However, my Father "abhorred" violence and even would not watch football as my Father detested the violence. And finally, Mike very succinctly stated that my Father was a peace-loving man and "to have him die this way is unbelievable, your Honor, it just wasn't fair".
Next was Bob Kummelehne, another long-time friend of my Father's and close friend to the end. Bob determinedly stated the following:
After Bob's poignant statement, it was my turn. I began with asking permission from the court to read two letters sent to me for this occasion. One was from my Father's second wife, Katie Kane (KT), and the second was from my sister, Alexis. Without objection from the defense, I read the letters into the record.
KT's letter made the specific point to ask that "the convicted be given the full extent of the law allowed for 2nd degree murder, which (she) hoped will also include without the possibility of parole. It doesn't seem right that (Candice) should ever be able to live a free life after taking that of Bill's."
My sister's letter, however, was even more compelling and with very little flourish, her point came across loud and clear. Here is an excerpt:
hand, my family has to much to say to you and on the other hand, we're
speechless. How can we measure this loss, the loss of not only a
man so full of life, but hands down the number one influence of my life?
What you have taught me and the life altering lesson to take away for my children, is the absolute destruction of addictions.
My emotion towards you
is not one of anger, but a deep sadness for all the lives destroyed and at the
minimum, deeply affected. Not only having my
father violently shot to death, but to see you, a 59 year old educated woman who has drank her life into shambles, sitting in the courtroom in a
diaper with a blank stare on your face, and your mother, in her 82nd year watching her only child going to prison for probably the rest of her life,
brings such an overwhelming feeling of sadness and waste."
Then, it was my turn. I really did not have anything prepared and only had a few notes that I referred to in order to make specific points. As I can recall, these are the elements of my Victim's Statement:
I paused at this time and discussed the letter that I sent to Judge Williams. I asked if I could conclude my statement once I hear his response to my letter and he stated that he will respond to my letter after my statement. I then quickly said that I had some other things to add and that I would still ask the questions of "Why Candice shot my Father, how she shot my Father and where the heck did she throw the gun".
I also stated that Candice's mother was a god-loving, god-fearing woman and if Candice was espousing the same, she should tell the truth and clear her conscience. (As expected, there was no response).
It was at this point that I decided to finalize my statement and go out with a bang (pun intended). Something that has angered me from the beginning of the trial, is the fact that Candice shot my Father with a semi-automatic pistol. Now, not being one that knew a lot about guns, I became a quick study over the past several weeks.
Unlike an automatic weapon wherein you could make the leap that it was an "accident" to hold down the trigger and allow the gun to go off several times, with a semi-automatic weapon, you have to deliberately pull the trigger each and every time. So, with this in mind, I assertively stated that "BAM!" she fires the first shot and then "BAM!" and "BAM!" and "BAM!" and "BAM!" and "BAM!" and "BAM!" and that each successive time she pulled that trigger, she consciously thought to kill my Father.
I asked that no consideration be given to the murderer and that she receive the maximum penalty without the possibility of parole. I concluded that Candice can in no way ever be released back into society and should never be free again.
I 'released' the courtroom back to Judge Williams and he asked if there is anything else, with both the prosecution and the defense responding "no". At this time, Judge Williams made several points that he felt were necessary to be cognizant of when he delivered his sentence to the murderer:
With the taking of all of these factors into account, Judge Rick A. Williams stated that the aggravating factors outweighed the mitigating factors. As a result, his sentence was thus:
18 years in the Arizona Department of
Flat-time, not eligible for release, no possibility of parole
Judge Williams gave Candice 33 days credit for pre-sentencing incarceration and asked Candice to place her thumbprint on the Sentencing Order and Notice of Rights and Review (or so I believe that was how it was stated).
The Judge stated that Candice has a right to appeal the jury's verdict and his sentence and that transcripts of the trial are provided to her at no cost. He ordered the exoneration of any bond and ordered Candice delivered to the Sheriff and the Department of Corrections.
Upon receipt of the appeal (which was filed September 03, 2009), this would trigger the automatic withdrawal of defense counsel.
COURT IS ADJOURNED!!!!!
Candice Lynne (McDaniel) (Smice) (Erickson) Wright, the convicted murderer of William H Wright, was shackled and led away shuffling through the courtroom and out the door to her prison home wherein she will reside for the rest of her miserable and dishonest life.
And, everyone else lived happily ever after.
My sincere thanks to the following people:
Mohave County Deputy Attorney, Jeremy Huss - for his unrelenting pursuit of justice for my Father, treating me with respect and allowing me to truly participate in the prosecution of the murderer.
Detectives Cindy Slack, Clint Campbell, KC Dreller, Rich Terrinoni and Sgt.
Troy Stirling - for their constant vigil over evidence that brought this case to
its rightful conclusion
All the involved Police Officers - for their assistance in bringing forth evidence and their excellent testimony
All the employees with the Lake Havasu City Police Department - that treated me with such kindness and respect
The Mohave County Victim's Witness group - who were always there when I needed them and provided me a safe cubby when I needed it most
Bob Kummelehne and Monika Gridley - who provided Gerson and I with a safe
haven during the past two years and an invaluable friendship
Sheri Staley - who has been my friend for over 40 years and while sitting through the entire trial, shared the same anger, frustration, joy and relief
My sister, Alexis - who had the confidence in me to let me "run with it" and to do whatever it took to see this verdict come to fruition
Judge Rick A Williams - who saw through the lies and at sentencing, shattered his glass box of impartiality and stated that the defendant "brutally murdered (my Father) with no justification whatsoever".
The people of Lake Havasu City - numerous people went above and beyond to treat me with kindness, consideration and help wherever possible
All my Father's friends - what can I say, between the great stories of my Father, your encouraging words, your warm hugs and your easy laughter, you all reinforced the reason I was so passionate about justice for my Father
And, especially to my husband Gerson - who always stood behind me to make sure I did not fall, stood in front of me for protection and stood alongside of me for support. This verdict and still keeping my sanity somewhat intact would not have been possible without his love, guidance, arguments, humor and strong arms.
Finally, thank you to my parents (Bill, Sheila and Dave), whom without which, I would not have had the genetic make-up nor the learning experience to have done all that I could and did to bring justice for my Father. He was not a perfect man, just a very good one.