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Kaarma's partner changes story, says teen didn't plead for life before fatal shooting
Grant Creek shooting

Kaarma's partner changes story, says teen didn't plead for life before fatal shooting

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A German teenager did not plead for his life in the seconds before he was shot to death in a Grant Creek garage, the Missoula woman who shared the home with shooter Markus Kaarma told jurors Friday.

Janelle Pflager's testimony came in direct contradiction to statements made to police on the night of the fatal shooting.

Kaarma is on trial for deliberate homicide in the shooting of Diren Dede, a foreign exchange student at Big Sky High School who lived nearby and was ostensibly looking for alcohol in Kaarma's garage last April 27. 

Pflager spent most of Friday morning on the witness stand, her second day of testimony before the eight women and four men on the Missoula County District Court jury.

After a brief break, Deputy County Attorney Jennifer Clark asked Pflager if she had been assaulted by Kaarma, with whom she has a child, two years ago.

Yes, said Pflager, Kaarma assaulted her in 2012. Clark asked no followup questions about the attack.

Kaarma's records in Missoula Municipal Court have been sealed. He did plead guilty to an assault in Seattle in 2003, and was charged with misdemeanors in Missoula several years later. No details of those cases have been released.

At issue now are allegations that Kaarma and Pflager set a trap in their garage to ensnare would-be burglars after they became irate about an earlier break-in and the lack of response from law enforcement.

But Kaarma's five-member defense team argues that he shot the teen in self-defense after he and his family felt they were targeted by a ring of teenage burglars.

During her testimony, Pflager contended she didn't hear Dede plead for his life before her partner fired the fatal shots from a pump-action shotgun they kept by the door.

Prosecutors played a recording from immediately after the shooting in which Pflager told Officer Caitlin Sargent that the young man tried to stop Kaarma by crying out, "No, no, no. Wait. Please." 

Pflager said she wasn't thinking clearly in the hours following the shooting, and she didn't know what she was saying. She said she was traumatized after attempting to render first aid to Dede, who bled to death on her garage floor.

Pflager reiterated Thursday and Friday that she and Kaarma were being terrorized in their home and she felt she was being watched.

"You think that you're good and you're safe," Pflager testified. "You are a good person and then stuff just starts happening. You never expect to be in a situation like this."

"Literally, it felt like being in the gynecologist in the middle of the street – you feel naked and open and out there," she said.

She said she particularly felt threatened because she was a new mother and didn't know what the burglars were capable of, or if they wanted to harm her child. 

"Honestly, we didn't care that anything was taken," she said "The thing that was taken was my son's safety. It was maddening that people were affecting my safety and our security."

During her examination, prosecutor Clark played the 9-1-1 call Pflager made in the seconds after the shooting, while Pflager held her hands over her ears on the stand.

During the call, the dispatcher directed Pflager to give Dede first aid, and in doing so Pflager took out Dede's wallet and looked at his I.D.

"Oh my god," Pflager said on the call. "He's not even a U.S. citizen."


During cross-examination, Pflager told defense attorney Katie Lacny that she in no way takes the shooting or subsequent criminal charges lightly, despite her apparently cheerful demeanor.

"I was elected class clown," she testified. "When I get extremely uncomfortable and anxious, I revert to making other people feel comfortable. I will ensure you I am in no way OK."

"My heart breaks for the family," she added.

Lacny's questioning then focused on prosecutors' entrapment theory, asking Pflager about the placement of a purse in the garage. Pflager said she would never try to lure burglars into the garage, despite purposely leaving the purse there with identifying items.

Pflager also spoke at length about her installation of motion detectors and Kaarma's disapproval of the equipment.

They argued frequently about the motion detectors and Kaarma threw them out several times, but Pflager dug them out of the trash and reinstalled them, she said.

Pflager's testimony took most of the morning and ended about 11 a.m. Judge Ed McLean dismissed her, but said she could be recalled later.


The prosecution then called two additional witnesses: Mike McMillan, an employee for Tru Green Lawn Care, and Lewis Reed Richman.

McMillan testified that on April 23, he arrived at the Kaarma residence and knocked on the door several times. When no one answered, he began spraying the foundation of the house for insects, per their contractual agreement.

Within minutes, he was confronted by Kaarma pointing a shotgun at him.

McMillan said Kaarma was completely naked and raised the gun to his shoulder as if he would shoot.

"I was scared and I was frozen," McMillan said. "I stood there and just watched him."

"What the (expletive) are you doing here?" Kaarma allegedly told him.

When McMillan explained he was from the lawn care company, Kaarma apparently didn't apologize. 

"(Expletive), I don't know what you are doing here, but you are lucky," Kaarma allegedly told McMillan.

McMillan said a woman, presumably Pflager, then came around to the front of the garage and apologized for Kaarma, who apparently had been awakened. She explained they were on edge because they recently had been victims of burglaries.

Richman, an 18-year-old freshman in college, testified he had been in Great Clips the same day as Kaarma.

He said Kaarma sat down next to him, despite an empty waiting room, and began to play pornography on his cellphone. He also testified that he overheard Kaarma say to his hair stylist that he wasn't sleeping at night because he was waiting up to "shoot some (expletive) kids."

Richman said Kaarma was speaking loud enough that the entire store could hear him, including the three Great Clips employees who testified on Thursday.


Testimony continued Friday afternoon with the statements of several Missoula police officers who responded after Kaarma shot Dede, including Sargent, who stayed with Pflager for the majority of the night. 

"She was very friendly," Sargent said. "She seemed comfortable and calm, considering the situation."

She described Pflager's demeanor as neither nervous nor upset, but talkative and even told a joke about Kaarma's last name and the situation. She said Pflager initiated conversation for about eight hours about topics ranging from smoothies to the house she lived in and her hometown of Detroit.

She also expressed how angry she would have been had Kaarma hit one of their vehicles in the shooting, Sargent said. 

Prosecutors next called Officer Jacob Jones to the stand. Jones and an officer in training were the first to arrive on scene and saw Dede on the floor in Pflager's arms breathing heavily. The pair then rendered first aid to Dede and followed the ambulance to the hospital.

During cross examination, Jones told Kaarma's attorney, Brian Smith, that he reported a parked Subaru in the neighborhood to his colleagues and then commented on several cars parked on the side of the road at the bottom of the neighborhood.

The defense team alleges the occupants of these cars, along with Dede and his friend Robby Pazmino, were part of an intricate teenage burglary ring made up of mostly Big Sky High School students.    

Several more officers, including Officer Michael Kamerer and Sgt. Michael Hebert, were called to testify Friday afternoon. All were on scene that night and were questioned by both the defense and prosecutors in a similar fashion.

The trial will resume Monday at 8:30 a.m. 

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