MISSOULA — A German high school student could have survived an initial shot to the arm by a Montana man but was killed by a subsequent gunshot wound to the head, a state medical examiner testified Monday in the man’s murder trial.
The testimony came as prosecutors seek to portray defendant Markus Kaarma as unstable and intent on harming anyone who tried to burglarize his Missoula garage before he shot and killed Diren Dede, 17, in the early hours of April 27.
Previous witnesses testified that Kaarma was on edge from previous burglaries, and prosecutors have said Kaarma fired a pump action shotgun four times into the garage — pausing between the third and fourth shots.
Kaarma insists he feared for his life and didn’t know if the intruder was armed. Defense attorneys argue Montana’s “stand your ground” law allowed Kaarma to use deadly force to defend his home.
State Medical Examiner Dr. Gary Dale testified Monday that Dede was first shot in the left arm. A subsequent gunshot wound to the head killed him, Dale said.
“Properly treated he would have survived that wound,” Dale said of the arm injury. “Essentially he was brain dead upon sustaining these brain wounds.”
Prosecutors showed jurors graphic photos of Dede’s wounds. Kaarma only glanced at the images and mostly looked down at his lap as Dale spoke.
Prosecutors are trying to prove that Kaarma, 30, laid a trap for teens he thought were burglarizing his Missoula home. A motion sensor he had set up went off, and Kaarma shot Dede in the garage with a pump-action shotgun.
Dede’s mother, Gulcin Dede, left the courtroom visibly upset when the jury was shown police video of the scene with drops of blood in the driveway and a piece of Dede’s clothing on the ground. She could be heard sobbing and did not return to court until after the images of Dede’s body were shown in the afternoon.
Jurors saw video of multiple shotgun pellet holes in the home, including one that hit a bottle of cooking oil in the kitchen pantry. Kaarma’s baby was inside the home at the time.
Defense attorneys asserted Monday that Missoula police had little experience with self-defense homicide investigations when they were called to the scene in April.
Police Sgt. Michael Hebert, who was in charge at the scene in the first two hours after the shooting, was questioned about his experience with homicide cases. He said he had responded to one homicide in Missoula in about 10 years and that it wasn’t a case in which someone was claiming self-defense.
Detective Mitchell Lang appeared uncomfortable with defense attorney Lisa Kauffmann’s questions about whether the position of Dede’s body and other details were documented, and whether he dusted for fingerprints. He said he hadn’t done those things.
Lang testified about the video and still photos he took that showed a blood-stained vehicle in the garage, the shotgun with a live round still inside, the four shotgun shells fired that morning and damage caused by them throughout the first floor of the home.