Husband goes on trial in death of former Vancouver resident

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PORTLAND — Everyone knows where Heather Dawn Mallory ended up — deep in the woods outside of Estacada where time and the elements reduced the 32-year-old mother, who vanished on March 8, 2008, to nothing but bones.

But how she got there will form the heart of a two-week murder trial that began Tuesday in Multnomah County Circuit Court.

Mallory’s husband, Brian Charles Cole, has been charged with murder.

In opening arguments, lead prosecutor Amy Holmes Hehn told jurors she wanted them to understand where Mallory’s remains were found. She played them a videotape showing how difficult it would be for someone to randomly find the spot where Mallory’s body was dumped.

All eyes in the courtroom watched — from the perspective of a driver — what it would be like to navigate U.S. Forest Road 41610, a narrow spur that leads into the hills off Oregon 224. Hehn told jurors Cole knew of this remote road, and his truck had once been stuck here.

A Bureau of Land Management surveyor walked into the woods last June, fighting his way through waist-high vines and ferns. About 50 yards in, he spotted a rotting fabric bag. He lifted the bag’s corer and saw a skull.

When law enforcement authorities arrived, they found Mallory’s purse and wallet. Weeks later, Cole, who had moved to Idaho, was arrested.

In court, Hehn painted the picture of a troubled marriage.

Mallory, a former employee of the University Club in downtown Portland and a student at the Oregon Culinary Institute had obtained a restraining order against Cole in 2006 after he hit her in the chest.

Cole, Hehn said, was jealous and controlling. She said he’d cut up Mallory’s credit cards and installed parental controls on her cellphone. She also said that Cold stalked his wife. Tensions, Hehn said, boiled over when Mallory returned home from an event on March 8 and next-door neighbors heard the couple arguing for hours.

She told jurors that after Cole killed his wife he made the “long drive” to Estacada with his wife’s body in his truck.

Defense attorney Russell Barnett told jurors that he didn’t have a “fancy slide show,” wasn’t trying to sell them a “bill of goods.”

He said Cole was upset with his wife because she was cheating on him.

Barnett said police focused on Cole early in the case at the expense of a thorough investigation, efforts devoted to making the argument that Cole was guilty.

“You’re supposed to hate that man,” he said as he pointed to Cole.

He turned to the jury.

“Do what no one has done before,” he said. “Look at all the evidence.”

Outside the courtroom, Mallory’s parents, Steven and Jeni Mallory, said they had prepared for this day.

“He didn’t lift a finger to look for her,” Steven Mallory said of Cole.