Day 3 testimony from the Koula trial: Neighbors and forensics

Day 3 testimony from the Koula trial: Neighbors and forensics

Posted: Updated: June 7, 2012 7:14 PM CDT
Neighbor Michael Lenz testifying about the events on May 21, 2010, the day of the murders. Neighbor Michael Lenz testifying about the events on May 21, 2010, the day of the murders.

LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (WXOW) – Eric Koula's lawyers say his parents lived in a tight-knit community, where everybody knew each other.

So they argue someone surely would have noticed that Dennis and Merna Koula were missing from May 21, 2010, the day of their deaths, until May 24.

That's when Eric Koula called 911 reporting he'd found the bodies.

But Dennis and Merna's neighbor to the west, Nigel Adcock, says the community isn't like that at all.  

"There are no paths people walk on," Adcock says.  

"It's very hilly," he says, "people don't go walking around in hilly areas."

The state alleges Koula drove to his parents' house between 5:30 pm and 5:40 pm on May 21.

He's then accused of shooting his mother as she sat at the computer, with her last keystroke coming at 5:41 pm.  

Adcock says he saw no cars in Dennis and Merna's drive way that evening.

He says he passed the house as he drove home from work between 5:25 pm and 5:35 pm.

But Mike Lenz, who lives one house down from Adcock and thus two houses away from the former Koula residence, says he thinks he saw some type of dark pickup truck pulling into Dennis and Merna's driveway that evening between 5 pm and 6 pm.  

"It was navy blue, forest green or black," Lenz says.  

Helen Von Roo, who was a co-worker of Dennis Koula's at a pharmacy in Black River Falls, says Dennis had told her he was frustrated about always giving money to "the kids."

The state argues that meant Eric and his sister Cindy.

But the defense counters that Dennis meant Cindy and her husband.  

"Every time he talked about the kids he meant his two children" says Von Roo.  

"His two biological children?" confirms District Attorney Tim Gruenke.

"Yes," she responds.

"You knew Dennis had been giving Cindy and Patrick money to help them pay their mortgage?" asks attorney Jim Koby, of the Koula defense team.

"Yes," Von Roo says.

"Did Dennis tell you he'd given Cindy 17 checks for $45,000?" Koby replies.  

"No," says Von Roo.

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LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (WXOW) - Day three of the trial of Eric Koula starts out with testimony from neighbors of Koula's parents.

Two people testified Thursday morning in a La Crosse County courtroom about the neighborhood around Dennis and Merna Koula's home.

While one neighbor testified he drove by the Koula home on Fox Hollow Drive and didn't see anything, another neighbor, Michael Lenz, told the jury he thinks he saw a pickup truck between 5-6pm the day of the murders.  He says he was outside doing yard work the evening of May 21st.  Lenz thought it was a dark colored pickup, but that he "can't be sure." 

The next person to testify was Paula Tart, who was working on May 22, 2010 at First Community Credit Union.  She confirmed that Koula deposited a $50,000 check that morning signed by his father and dated May 21.  Before that, Tart said, Koula had $729 in his account. 

In addition to the two homicide counts, one of the charges against Koula was that he forged the check that he deposited.

There was brief testimony from La Crosse Police Investigator Michael Blokhuis, who is trained in computer forensics.  He established that Merna Koula's last keystroke on the computer she was working on took place at 541pm.  That's the time that investigators believe she was fatally shot.

The morning's testimony concluded with Dr. Lindsey Thomas, a forensic pathologist from Regina Medical Center in Hastings, who performed an autopsy on both Dennis and Merna Koula.

Thomas confirmed that the official cause of death for both was a single, gunshot wound to the head.

She also testified that Dennis sustained facial abrasions and fractured ribs as he fell to the floor in the kitchen, instantly killed by a shot just above his right ear that moved slowly upwards and across the brain.

The bullet removed from Merna's head was broken into two significant fragments, while the one that killed Dennis had stayed more or less in tact, leaving behind just millimeter-sized shards of metal in its path.

Pete Zervakis is covering the trial.  He'll have more on today's testimony on Live at Five and the 6pm and 10pm Report.

Follow him on Twitter @WXOW_Zervakis or watch a live stream of today's trial proceedings at wxow.com/live.

 

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