By Al Camp
OKANOGAN - The murder case alleging two Spokane residents were part of a conspiracy to kill a pregnant Tonasket woman last year now rests in the hands of the jury nearly three weeks after it began.
Jury instructions and closing arguments wrapped up around 3 p.m. April 22 in the Okanogan County Superior Court trial of "Tonasket" Tansy Fay-Arwen Mathis, 30, and David Eugene Richards, 34. Each is charged with aggravated first-degree murder or, in the alternative, first-degree murder with premeditation, first-degree manslaughter of an unborn child and first-degree kidnapping.
Those instructions allow the jury to find the defendants guilty of several lesser crimes. A conviction for the most serious crimes would carry a sentence of life in prison.
Brent "Hollywood" Lane Phillips, 39, testified early in the trial that he stabbed Michelle Kitterman, 25, in the early morning of March 1, 2009. Kitterman, who was about 11 weeks pregnant, was found dead on the side of a private road just off Stalder Road about 14.5 miles southwest of Tonasket.
Both defendants' attorneys singled out Phillips and his plea agreement, in which the state will recommend May 11 a sentence of 26 years for the reduced charges of first-degree murder - premeditated murder, first-degree manslaughter of an unborn child, tampering with evidence and first-degree kidnapping.
A fourth defendant, Lacey Kae Hirst-Pavek, 35, Crumbacher, awaits trial July 6 while out of custody on $250,000 bail on charges of first-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter. Hirst-Pavek allegedly hired Mathis to find people to rough up Kitterman and cause here to abort.
Hirst-Pavek's husband, Danny Pavek, was the father of Kitterman's unborn baby, testimony said.
Objections were raised several times during closing arguments, with Chelan County Superior Court Judge T.W. "Chip" Small reminding the jury that what the attorneys said was not fact and that they would have to determine facts in the case.
After Small finished reading instructions around 11:40 a.m., the jury opted to continue with closing arguments, which wrapped up more than three hours later, without a break for lunch or restroom.
Attorneys hammered out the final 52 instructions over many hours outside the regular trial hours, with some wording decided Thursday morning and a change made just prior to the jury hearing closing arguments. Some wording needed to reflect new felony statutes for second-degree murder.
For more than an hour, county prosecuting attorney Karl Sloan, who must prove beyond doubt the defendants committed crimes, reminded the jury of key details that he said showed Mathis, Richards, Phillips and Hirst-Pavek conspired to take out Kitterman.
"This case started as an affair," said Sloan. "This relationship created some anguish, anger" for Hirst-Pavek. "This pregnancy pushed it beyond that."
Sloan inferred that Kitterman, who was picked up in early February for methamphetamine possession, may have been set up by Hirst-Pavek, who was the registered owner of the pickup Kitterman was driving. From there Hirst-Pavek allegedly spread the word that Kitterman was a snitch.
"Lacey Hirst is not on trial here, now," Sloan said. "But you cannot separate how she was included in this. It became nearly an obsession."
One witness, Marcella Raymer, said she was told by Hirst-Pavek that she hired four people to take care of Kitterman, and wanted her dead, Sloan said.
"That's pretty clear, four people coming to take of Michelle and the baby," Sloan said.
The prosecutor outlined how others testified how Hirst-Pavek said Kitterman did not know with whom she was messing, that she was going to get someone to throw a blanket over her, beat her up and lose the baby. There were people in Spokane who were going to make Kitterman disappear, he said.
"I think it's clear from the evidence, Michelle did not have a clue what was coming," Sloan said.
Sloan used Mathis' cell phone records to show calls between her, Richards and Hirst-Pavek, plus lapses that explained time frames for the killing and police being at Richards' residence looking for weapons.
There is a lapse of about two hours from 2:19 a.m. to 4:23 a.m. on March 1 when no calls were made, and this allegedly is the time when Kitterman was killed.
The first call Mathis made, at 4:23 a.m., was to Hirst-Pavek, Sloan said. The second call was to Richards at 4:24 a.m.
An autopsy report by Dr. Gina Fino showed that Kitterman was stabbed five times in the abdomen. Her wounds were only an inch deep and did not reach through the muscle layer.
Other stab wounds of the 39 suffered by Kitterman were much deeper, up to five inches, and included the fatal blow that went through her rib cage and into her heart, Sloan said of an autopsy report.
"Again, make no mistake, Mr. Phillips is a murderer," Sloan said. "But Mr. Phillips did not get there alone. Nor was there an alleged sexual tryst. There was a plan and that plan was carried out."
Mathis allegedly confided in Brian Hohman about the killing, including saying Kitterman was stabbed five times in the abdomen.
Sloan said another interesting piece of the puzzle was testimony that Hirst-Pavek said in a Monday morning phone call that Kitterman was dead while police did not figure out who died until Monday afternoon.
"This was not an off-the-cuff murder," Sloan said. "This was a planned procedure."
Anthony Frey, Richards' attorney, took 15 minutes in his closing statement, noting that Richards remained in jail for a year, during which Phillips made a statement saying Richards was present and contributed to the death of Kitterman.
But Phillips testified, in what Frey called his fourth statement on the killing, that Richards was not present.
"This stone-cold killer killed this girl and blamed it on David," Frey said. He brought attention to the instruction concerning weight given an accomplice's testimony for the state.
"The state's entire case against David is from the mouth of that admitted killer," Frey said.
Frey said the numerous calls between Mathis and Richards were between two people selling drugs.
Phillips had been using methamphetamine for several days with no sleep, including injecting it.
Frey called Phillips' actions those of meth rage.
Frey said the most truthful testimony in the trial came from Robert Storm, who is serving a prison sentence and testified while his efforts to gain an education in prison were halted.
Phillips allegedly admitted to Roberts the killing of Kitterman and that Richards had nothing to do with it.
Frey reminded jurors it was not their duty to figure out what happened, but to look at the evidence and see if it proved beyond a reasonable doubt that someone had committed a crime.
"Your job is to test the prosecutor's case," he said.
Steve Graham, attorney for Mathis, asked, "did you ever think the evidence would be so light? The prosecutor built an impressive house of cards."
Graham said infidelity was common, that Hirst-Pavek was disappointed in her husband's actions and complained, saying she was unhappy.
"There was a contract killing from this housewife?" he said. "It sounds like a made-for-TV contract hit. It does not make any sense."
Graham stressed, as he did at the start of the trial, that Mathis was visiting Kitterman to buy her off with methamphetamine to leave Hirst-Pavek's husband.
"Did she want Miss Kitterman to disappear, absolutely," Graham said.
He said testimony in the trial included people who may have been boasting or exaggerating information due to the case's high-profile nature.
Referring to a rented SUV used the night of Kitterman's death, Graham said Mathis needed a four-wheel-drive vehicle to get to the area to sell her drugs, as money was to be made with people getting their income checks at the start of the month.
"Boy, oh, boy, Tansy has to get those drugs out," he said. "Neither rain nor sleet nor hail can stop the drug distribution.
"Witnesses were drawn from that pool of society," Graham said. "These people are struggling, but it does not make somebody a contract killer, a murderer."
Graham noted not one of the admitted drug users who testified had been charged, which he said reflected their cooperation with law enforcement to say what law enforcement wanted to hear.
"The more you talk, the more they forgive," Graham said.
He then put up a photo on the overhead projector of Phillips.
"They made him a pretty good offer. He was facing a life sentence and that was whittled down to 26 years," he said.
"How is that worth more than a sack of cash?" Graham asked. "It's worth more."
Graham noted no testimony indicated Mathis was a violent person, only that she could speak Spanish and obtain drugs cheap while selling them.
"She's not a violent person," he said. "Is she going to help somebody stab someone to death?"
Graham said the stab wounds suffered by Kitterman were not made by Mathis, but by Phillips, a reflection of his life as hired muscle, bullying and roughing up people.
"The evidence is clear, she is not that kind of person," he said. "These two people broke the law (selling drugs) but they are not murderers."
In rebuttal, Sloan went over the definition of an accomplice to counter the defense blaming the killing squarely on Phillips.
The prosecutor also pointed out Phillips' plea agreement that said he could face the maximum sentence of the crimes if he was found not to have testified truthfully.
By Mathis' own admission, said Sloan, she was a high-level drug dealer. "There's no violence there?" he said.
Sloan also asked the jury why Mathis needed a four-wheel drive at the end of February and not the end of January or December to deliver drugs.
Sloan showed the jury Kitterman's shirt, which shows five stab wounds in the abdomen area where the baby would be, and that it had not been ripped off of her by someone attempting to fondle or rape Kitterman.
"The stab wounds are through the clothing," Sloan said. "There are no signs of sexual assault. Mr. Phillips was lined up to do this job. They had a job to do and they carried that job out."