Janelle Pflager Describes the Shooting of Diren Dede and its Aftermath in Day Two of the Markus Kaarma Trial
On day two of the Markus Kaarma trial in Missoula, Kaarma's partner Janelle Pflager took the stand again to continue her testimony, describing the night of the shooting and its aftermath.
Pflager told state attorney Jennifer Clark that the things that were taken in the burglaries didn't bother her or Kaarma, what they were concerned about was the safety of their son. This fear was a theme Pflager called back to throughout her testimony, claiming that she had nightmares that thieves would enter through the window into her son's room.
Pflager was hesitant to characterize Kaarma as angry during discussion of text messages that had been sent on the morning of April 26, although at the time the messages were sent her wording indicated that Kaarma was "still mad" about the situation. Kaarma fatally shot German exchange student Diren Dede in his garage that very night and has been accused of deliberately baiting potential burglars into his home.
On the topic of Pflager's statements to police after the shooting took place, including her statement that Dede was in possession of a flashlight or using light from his cell phone, Pflager claims that she was traumatized and confused after holding Diren Dede's brain in place while on the phone with 911. Pflager claims that in moments of stress she gets "diarrhea of the mouth" and may agree with suggested statements that appear reasonable. She believes that the moment she agreed that Dede had been using a flashlight or cell phone light in the garage, which would have given away his position to Markus Kaarma, is a perfect example of this.
Asked about the events on the night of April 26, Pflager says that Kaarma had smoked marijuana at some point in the day, although she does not know when. She generally disapproves of marijuana use but understands that it helps ease Kaarma's mind given his social anxiety. Pflager recalls that she went out to smoke while Kaarma changed clothes before they settled in to watch the movie Lincoln. She does not recall what time she went out to smoke, but says she left the garage door open assuming that Kaarma would go outside to do the same, and that he would close it when he was done. Clark questioned why, if she was so concerned about the safety of her baby in the wake of repeated burglaries, Pflager would leave the garage door open. Pflager responded that there was a miscommunication between her and Markus about whether or not he was going to smoke, and that she has the right to leave her garage door open to air it out if she wants to.
Roughly a half hour after Pflager returned from the garage, she got alerts that the motion detectors in the driveway had been tripped. She assumed it was a deer, but when the alerts kept coming she took Markus' phone and opened the app that would allow her to see from the cameras in their garage--the location of the previous burglaries. At first, she couldn't understand what she was seeing, but she began taking screenshots just in case. Markus was on the couch with her, but he did not believe there was an intruder. When she saw movement, Pflager says she just about "crapped her pants" and went from "0 to 100" immediately. She got Markus to look, at which point Markus cried out that someone was getting into his truck.
When asked if she said "let's be reasonable" to Markus when he brought out one of his two shotguns, and that she cautioned him that the person in the garage may be a kid, or that the kid may deserve a second chance, Pflager agreed. She claims that guns make her nervous and her intention had always been to see the burglars arrested.
In her statement immediately after the shooting, Pflager told Detective Baker that she was still in the house when Kaarma approached the garage, putting her shoes on. Pflager now says that her shoes were slip-ons and she was with Kaarma the whole time--having exited the house "less than a second" behind him. Pflager said that when the first shot went off she was confused as to who was shooting and didn't know what was going on. She saw someone running down the street away from their home and was confused, claiming that she was "literally spinning in circles" as the subsequent shots went off. She thinks there was a slight pause between the third and fourth shot, but thinks that is only because she turned on the light and temporarily blinded Kaarma.
Pflager also said in her statement on April 27 that after the shotgun was racked Diren Dede called out "hey, wait," and that he cried out after the fourth shot. Pflager claims to remember making those statements, but reiterated that she was a rambling mess after holding Dede's brain in his head while on the phone with 911. Pflager asserts that she would dispute a lot of the things she and Markus said in the hours after the shooting because they were traumatized. Clark asked Pflager to confirm that her testimony is now that Diren Dede never spoke and Pflager agreed. Pflager said that without getting graphic, Dede would not have been able to speak after the fourth shot.
When the shooting was over, Pflager peered into the garage--still afraid that someone inside would do her harm. Clark asked if Pflager had checked Diren Dede's pockets for an ID and Pflager agreed. Asked why she did that while Dede was dying on the floor, Pflager claimed that the 911 operator was hitting her with questions "like a battering ram," and that being a person who likes to find answers she did her best to comply.
Jennifer Clark then played the audio of the 911 call Janelle made, which revealed that the operator did not ask about Dede's identity at all. During the first half of the recording, Pflager appeared to cover her ears. In the recording, Pflager told the operator that she wanted to report a robbery. When questioned about the robbery, Pflager added that the burglar had been badly hurt after her husband fired a shotgun and that his breathing was labored and he was coughing blood. The 911 operator instructed Pflager to roll Dede onto his side to prevent him from choking on his own blood. When Pflager complied, she discovered Dede's massive head trauma. While the operator was insisting that Pflager roll Dede onto his side, Pflager volunteered that she had found an ID, that the burglar's name was Diren and that he "isn't even a U.S. citizen," incorrectly identifying him as Dutch.
The operator had Pflager remove the shotgun from Kaarma, who was standing outside the garage, and put it inside the house so officers would not feel threatened when they arrived. After returning to Dede's side, Pflager told the operator that she was pretty sure she was holding his brain in place just as officers arrived on the scene.
In the courtroom, an emotional Pflager told Clark that she and Markus now lock the door leading into the house from the garage, although they still leave the garage door open "approximately four inches" from time to time. Pflager also told Clark that she is no longer afraid of burglaries.
The Kaarma trial will continue with the defense team's cross-examination of Janelle Pflager. Check back for updates.