Troxel murder case goes to the jury after week-long trial
THIEF RIVER FALLS — The jury of six women and six men began deciding Jedidiah Troxel’s fate about 11:30 a.m. today after his week-long murder trial.
Troxel, 32, is charged with three counts of first-degree murder during criminal sexual conduct, each carrying a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole, in the stabbing death of Tanya Kazmierczak last year.
His attorney, Kip Fontaine, told the jury each of the charges requires the state to prove Kazmierczak was killed during the commission of a sexual assault, which he said an expert witness for the prosecution had described as “likely.”
“We are asking you, we are telling you, you cannot make this life-changing decision,” based on it being “likely” that Kazmierczak was sexually assaulted during her murder, Fontaine said. Evidence found at the scene makes it just as likely the sexual act happened some time before she was slain, which would not fit the charges against Troxel, he said.
In his closing, prosecutor Eric Schieferdecker told the jury to remember “the 100 lies of Jedidiah Troxel,” referring them to the three interviews he did with investigators in the first days after Kazmierczak went missing. He denied she ever was in his car or that he ever had sex with her, yet later tests proved her fingerprint was on his car, her blood was on his gear-shift handle and elsewhere in the car and on his black tank-top shirt found in his Crookston home; DNA testing showed sexual contact between them, said Schieferdecker, an assistant attorney general for Minnesota.
Troxel and Kazmierczak partied together with others at three neighboring homes in Greendale trailer park in Thief River Falls from Friday night, Aug. 24, 2012, until about 6 a.m. the next morning, according to testimony.
Michelle Rose, a friend of Kazmierczak, said she last saw her standing outside Troxel’s car about dawn Aug. 25, talking to him.
Kazmierczak was reported missing later that day. Her body was found Sunday morning, Aug. 26, mostly naked, lying on the bank of the Red Lake River near Smiley Bridge, southeast of Thief River Falls.
Schieferdecker again showed the jury explicit photos of her body as it was found, with 37 stab wounds from a knife and gash across her neck, her face bruised, one eye appeared swollen from a beating.
Troxel, following the proceeding closely on the video screen in front of him, turned 90 degrees away while photos of Kazmierczak’s bloody body were shown.
The defense rested this morning without calling any witnesses.
Fontaine told the jury they already had heard Troxel’s testimony in hours of recorded interviews he did with investigators before and after Kazmierczak’s body was found.
“He cooperated fully,” Fontaine said.
Investigators focused on Troxel already Aug. 25, last year, the day she was reported missing, based on what other partygoers said, and before her body was found Aug. 26.
Troxel and Kazmierczak had an intertwined history. Their families had lived as neighbors in Thief River Falls. At the time of her murder, Troxel was living in Crookston in the back bedroom of a house where his mother lives with Kazmierczak’s brother.
Troxel told investigators they were friends and he never would hurt her. Investigators suggested during hours of increasingly pointed interviews that he feared angering his girlfriend, Wilma Anderson, by news that he had had sex with Kazmierczak.
A child born to Troxel and Anderson after Kazmierczak’s murder turned 1 last month, Anderson testified last week.
Fontaine stressed to the jury that everyone partying that night in Thief River Falls was so intoxicated their memories of what they saw, and when, were unreliable.
Stephen J. Lee | Forum News Service