Neighbors detail baiting plot in teen's death

Defense attorney's cite state's 'stand your ground' law

By Lisa Baumann
Associated Press

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) - Neighbors of the Montana man who fatally shot a German exchange student testified at the man's murder trial Tuesday that the man's girlfriend told them the couple planned to bait intruders in order to catch them in their garage.

Neighbor Jessica Bracey said she had a conversation with Markus Kaarma's girlfriend, Janelle Pflager, days before the April 27 shooting. She told jurors she is certain Pflager used the word "bait" in describing plans to catch intruders after their garage had been burglarized April 17.

"Yeah, we're going to bait them in and use baby monitors to catch them," Bracey recalled Pflager saying, adding the baby monitors would show live video of the garage and if anyone had ventured inside. "The term was bait. I know because it stuck in my head."

Prosecutors attempted to show a trap had been set for anyone who tried to burglarize Kaarma's garage, and that he was intent on harming that person before he shot and killed 17-year-old Diren Dede inside the garage. Kaarma is on trial for deliberate homicide.

Pflager has testified she wasn't planning to bait anyone - but that she did leave a purse in the garage so she'd know someone had been inside.

Kaarma's next-door neighbor testified Tuesday that on the night of the first burglary, he heard Pflager threaten the people who answered his stolen cellphone.

"If you return to our garage you could be killed," Terry Fink said Pflager told them. "It was jaw dropping to me at the time."

Defense attorney Brian Smith asserted that Fink didn't like Kaarma and that he wouldn't do anything that might help Kaarma during the trial. Fink disagreed.

Another neighbor testified that most of the neighborhood disagreed with what Kaarma did that night.

Kaarma's attorneys say Montana's "stand your ground" law allowed him to use deadly force to defend his home.

Robby Pazmino, 19, of Quito, Ecuador, told jurors Tuesday that he and Dede became fast friends after they met as exchange students in Missoula.

They had been involved in "garage-hopping," or sneaking into people's garages, on as many as five other occasions, and many students at their high school were doing it, Pazmino said.

Pazmino said he and Dede went for a walk late April 26 and that they noticed Markus Kaarma's partially open garage door. Pazmino said they didn't discuss burglarizing garages that night, but he did ask Dede if he was "going there."

Dede didn't respond, Pazmino said, adding that he walked down the street and waited.

Pazmino testified that he started running after hearing the first shot and jumped a few fences to get to the home of Dede's host family. He said he didn't call 911 because he didn't think anyone would have been shot.

Trial will resume Thursday.

Published: Thu, Dec 11, 2014