On the first day of the trial for the murder of a Montesano woman last June, there’s already been a motion for mistrial.
Judge Gordon Godfrey dismissed it quickly Tuesday, but Eugene V. Elkins Jr.’s attorney, David Mistachkin, argued that a witness prejudiced the jury when he mentioned that Elkins had fought with his girlfriend before she was found dead in their home.
Elkins, 56, is charged with second-degree murder in the death of Kornelia Englemann. Engelmann, 58, was found in the bedroom of Elkins’ mobile home where they both lived June 6, 2012. She was mostly nude, with her shirt and bra torn, and covered in bruises. An autopsy showed she died of multiple blunt force injuries to the head and torso, with internal bleeding.
Although Mistachkin’s objection at the time was sustained, and Godfrey directed the jurors to disregard the comment, “the cat’s out of the bag, the bell’s rung, you can’t unwind that,” Mistachkin said. “I’m afraid the jury will use that regarding prior alleged domestic violence incidents.”
“Even if it were to be allowed in, the fact that they had arguments is a long leap,” Prosecutor Katie Svoboda said. “Everyone who has been in a relationship has had arguments, and they do not end in homicide.”
The objection came from testimony from Paul Hansen, a longtime friend of Elkins. Elkins fled to Hansen’s home in Wapato after Elkins’ girlfriend, Kornelia Englemann, was found dead.
Hansen testified he was in regular contact with Elkins and sometimes heard him arguing with Englemann during their phone calls. The comment was struck.
“There had been a rather innocuous question, he gave a rather innocuous response, and he volunteered the statement, it was not solicited by counsel,” Godfrey noted. “I don’t think so, counsel. Mistrial motion denied.”
Brianne Slosson testified she woke up the morning of June 6 to a voicemail from Elkins.
“The voicemail just said it was Gene, and for me to call him back, that it was kind of important,” she said.
The certified nursing assistant had become friends with Elkins through her then-boyfriend. She called him back, her calls going straight to voicemail, until he finally called again about 7 a.m.
“He just said that I needed to get up to the house right away, that something was wrong with Kornelia,” Slosson said. “At first he told me that she was dead and that I needed to keep my mouth shut. Then I told him to call 911, and he said well, he didn’t know she was dead, I needed to come and check.”
The bedroom was dark when she walked in, she said, she had to turn on a light to seek Englemann lying face-up on the floor, partly covered with a blanket.
“Rigor mortis had already set in, so she had been dead for quite some time,” Slosson said. “She was very cold, very stiff, and her mouth — lockjaw of rigor mortis. Her mouth was open, her eyes were open.”
Asked to describe the trauma to Englemann’s body specifically, Slosson took a long pause, fighting back tears.
“She didn’t have any clothes on. And she was just black and blue, from her chest up was just black,” she said.
Although the testimony was not admitted as evidence for the jury, she also said she had heard him arguing with Englemann the day before about what he perceived as her flirting with his friend.
Among other expletives, Slosson said, she heard him tell her, “You need to go take a bath you dirty whore.”
Mistachkin noted Slosson had not seen Elkins dial or confirmed directly it was Englemann to whom he was speaking.
When Slosson asked Elkins if he was responsible for Englemann’s death, “he said that he had beaten her, but she didn’t die while the physical confrontation was gong on. That she was fine, that she had gone to bed around midnight, she must have gotten up to use the bathroom and she fell down on the floor and he couldn’t wake her up.”
“He told me we could not call 911. I told him if we could just call 911 I could get him out of trouble, I could say that she fell or something, I just wanted him to call. He said no,” Slosson said.
So she helped him pack up Englemann’s car, moved her truck out of his way, and said goodbye.
“He said to give him a 10-minute head start. He told me he wanted to go see the desert,” Slosson said.
“Did he ask you to tell the police where he’d gone?” Svoboda asked.
“He said to tell them he was going to Oregon,” Slosson replied. “I called 911 before he was even around the corner.”
“Is there a reason that you waited until he left (to call 911)?” Svoboda asked.
“Because I was scared.”
Elkins was found at Hansen’s home in the Yakima Valley. Hansen said he arrived about 1 p.m. on June 6.
“He said that his girlfriend was not alive. … That he tried to revive her, and that didn’t happen, so he got scared and left,” Hansen said. “He said he shoved her around the night before … but he claimed he didn’t hit her.”
The two talked over the situation, with Elkins at one point noting he might dispose of Englemann’s body “wherever they get rid of yard clippings,” Hansen added.
Within an hour of Elkins’ arrival, they had called police.
“He said, ‘Let me have one more beer and I’m going to turn myself in,” Hansen said.
Mistachkin said the prosecution’s case was wholly based on circumstantial evidence.
“There’s no forensics. They didn’t process any of the forensics,” he said, referring to a sexual assault kit performed on Englemann and a glass drug pipe found in the bedroom with her body.
Mistachkin is expected to present his defense today.