Defense testimony continues in Wolter murder trial

Neuropsychologist says defendant shows signs of fetal alcohol syndrome

By Paris Achen, Columbian courts reporter

Published:

 
photoMurder victim Kori Fredericksen, about five years ago at The Minnehaha Church in Vancouver. Photo courtesy of sister Tammi Murphy.

A neuropsychologist testified Monday that murder suspect Dennis Wolter shows symptoms of fetal alcohol syndrome.

Wolter, 43, is accused of stabbing his estranged girlfriend, Kori Fredericksen, 41, more than 70 times inside his home at 1205 W. 39th St. in Vancouver in May 2011. He’s charged with aggravated first-degree murder, which requires prosecutors to prove intent.

Wolter’s attorney, Therese Lavallee, has argued that Wolter has brain damage from fetal alcohol syndrome, as well as a traumatic brain injury sustained at age 18. She says the damaged area governs self-control and decision-making, among other things, and that the damage interfered with his ability to form intent.

In the second day of Wolter’s defense in Clark County Superior Court, neuropsychologist Paul Connor said he evaluated Wolter, 43, in September 2011 based on criteria from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He found that Wolter has seven of the impairments associated with fetal alcohol syndrome: academic, visuo-spatial organization, motor coordination, executive function, communication, daily living skills and socialization. Executive function includes memory, attention, planning, problem-solving and other brain activities.

Connor said he can’t diagnose fetal alcohol syndrome because he’s not a doctor but another defense witness is expected to give a diagnosis.

Connor said parents report that children with fetal alcohol syndrome can switch on and off from bursts of anger to relative harmony.

On cross-examination, Connor said a psychiatrist who evaluated Wolter in 2002 in a correctional facility had diagnosed the defendant with antisocial personality disorder, rather than fetal alcohol syndrome. Antisocial personality disorder includes disregard for the wishes of others and deceit for personal gain. Wolter was sentenced in 2000 to 29 months in prison for methamphetamine charges.

After Wolter allegedly assaulted Fredericksen on May 17, 2011, and pushed over her china hutch, breaking everything inside, a judge ordered him to have no contact with Fredericksen, who lived with him. As a result, Wolter wasn’t allowed to return to the home he rented on West 39th Street.

One of the prosecution’s theories is that Wolter killed Fredericksen to prevent her from testifying against him in the domestic violence case.

Wolter’s landlord, Oliver Hidden, said on Friday that he later served Fredericksen with an eviction notice.

Defense witnesses have testified that Fredericksen also had anger problems.

Wolter’s friend, Paula Gardner, testified that Fredericksen threatened to kill her in late May 2011 after Fredericksen received an eviction notice from Wolter’s landlord.

Fredericksen was angry when she made the threat and indicated that she thought Wolter and Gardner were dating, Gardner testified. Gardner said there was nothing more than friendship between her and Wolter.

She said she called 911 to report the threat, but responders concluded Gardner was the aggressor.

On cross-examination, Gardner admitted that she had told a Vancouver police detective that the threat was more of a “high school type of thing” but maintained that she felt threatened.

Gardner and another friend, Yevette Payne, also testified Monday that Wolter had scratches and bruises on both of his arms after the May 17, 2011, domestic dispute. Payne said she provided photos of the injuries to police, but the injuries were hard to make out in the photos.

Another friend, Richard Stauffer, said that he called 911 on either May 23, 2011, or May 24, 2011 to report Fredericksen. He said he was concerned about the welfare of her son, now 9, because Fredericksen appeared to be high. When the police came, they told Stauffer that they saw “no present danger” to the child, Stauffer said on cross examination.

No evidence of either 911 call has been presented yet.

Early on May 26, 2011, police found Fredericksen’s body down a ravine along East Evergreen Highway between Camas and Vancouver. That was about a mile away from where Wolter was pulled over the same day for speeding. Wolter and his blue Dodge pickup were covered in Fredericksen’s blood. A domestic violence no-contact order for Wolter to stay away from Fredericksen was on the front driver’s seat. Police later found five blood-stained knives, a trail and pools of blood, and Fredericksen’s bloody, perforated sweater at Wolter’s home.


Paris Achen: 360-735-4551; http://twitter.com/Col_Courts; paris.achen@columbian.com.