UPDATE – Markus Kaarma Found Guilty of Deliberate Homicide With Video Reaction [YouTube]
Markus Kaarma was found guilty of the deliberate homicide of German exchange student Diren Dede in Missoula on Wednesday afternoon.
The jury began deliberating at noon on Tuesday. After four hours, they returned to the courtroom to review video and audio evidence, causing bailiffs to empty the courtroom of media and spectators so the jury could have privacy. Jurors continued reviewing video and audio evidence at 8:30 this morning before returning to their deliberation room. A verdict was reached at around 12:45 and defense and prosecution were called back to the courtroom.
Markus Kaarma appeared emotional for the first time during the trial as he took his seat in the courtroom, appearing to fight back tears. Diren Dede's parents were also emotional well before the verdict was read. State attorney Jennifer Clark briefly sat with Dede's mother to comfort her.
When the verdict was read there were cheers in the courtroom and sobs from Dede's parents, Kaarma's mother, and Janelle Pflager (Kaarma's common-law wife). Markus Kaarma was remanded to custody and escorted from the courtroom.
Kaarma had been charged with deliberate homicide following the fatal shooting of Diren Dede, a German exchange student who entered Kaarma's garage on the night of April 27, 2014. Kaarma had claimed self defense, citing both Stand Your Ground and the Castle Doctrine as laws that allow him to protect his home against intruders.
Investigators became suspicious when witness statements from Kaarma did not match accounts of his common-law wife, Janelle Pflager, and Robby Pazmino, an Ecuadorian exchange student and friend of Dede's who was with him on the scene when he entered the Kaarma garage. Investigators were also suspicious of the shot pattern, noticing that it contradicted Kaarma's claim that he shot high to avoid hitting anything.
Detectives subsequently heard statements from neighbors indicating that Kaarma and Pflager had expressed an intention to bait potential burglars into their home to take revenge, going so far as to state "guns are loaded." Detectives also heard from staff of Great Clips that Markus Kaarma had angrily told them he was staying awake at night waiting for some kids to return to his home so he could kill them. That was three days before the shooting of Diren Dede.
The Kaarma garage was twice burglarized in late March or early April of 2014. When Kaarma and Pflager were not satisfied with progress of police investigations, Pflager pursued her own investigation, purchased motion sensors with a baby monitor camera to place in the garage, and placed a black purse in the garage. The purse in particular was a controversial piece of evidence; defense claimed the Kaarmas merely intended to place items that could be tracked by police in case it was stolen, with the prosecution asserting that the purse is evidence that Kaarma and Pflager were attempting to bait burglars back into their garage.
Defense also accused Missoula Police of mishandling or ignoring evidence. They believed that detectives pursued a narrative about Kaarma and Pflager baiting burglars instead of strictly following evidence.