Wolter’s poker skills discussed at murder trial

Testimony focuses on the defendant's ability to form intent




In the high-stakes murder trial of Dennis Wolter, the defense went all in Tuesday with expert testimony from a psychiatrist who said the 43-year-old has a medical condition that may prevent him from being able to premeditate. Then, Clark County Prosecuting Attorney Tony Golik raised his bet on winning a conviction in the case.

It’ll be up to the jury to decide if anyone is bluffing.

During Golik’s cross-examination Tuesday of Dr. Richard Adler, Wolter’s poker skills raised questions about the psychiatrist’s diagnosis.

Wolter 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 premeditation and intent.

Wolter’s attorney, Therese Lavallee, has argued that Wolter has brain damage from a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, as well as a traumatic brain injury sustained at age 18. She said the damage interfered with his ability to form intent.

In the third day of Wolter’s defense in Clark County Superior Court, Adler testified that after a battery of tests in late 2011 and early 2012, he diagnosed Wolter with partial fetal alcohol syndrome. The “partial” condition causes brain damage and, in some cases, abnormal facial features. Full fetal alcohol syndrome includes both brain damage and all three of the facial features emblematic of the condition: small eye openings, a thin upper lip and a flat philtrum, the normally-ridged area between the bottom of the nose and the top of the lip.

Adler said he learned from Wolter’s paternal cousin that the defendant’s mother drank while she was pregnant in the 1960s. At the time, women didn’t know that alcohol could cause birth defects and other problems. Researchers didn’t learn of the connection until 1973, Adler said.

Wolter’s brain damage sustained from the condition interferes with his ability to make judgments, plan, problem solve, delay gratification, control his emotions, understand social nuances such as sarcasm, and form intent, Adler said.

Wolter also has mild abnormalities to his upper lip and philtrum, Adler said.

During cross-examination, Golik asked whether Adler knew that Wolter is a good poker player. (Last week, Dannielle Williams testified she, her boyfriend, and Wolter used to play card games together, and Wolter usually beat them at poker).

Adler said he did not know that Wolter was good at poker.

The psychiatrist said that would surprise him, “in that in playing poker, one has to be able to fake out other people.”

He said people with fetal alcohol syndrome are usually guileless and impulsive.

“That doesn’t typically make a good poker player,’ Adler said.

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.

Testimony in the trial is expected to wrap up today, attorneys said Wednesday.

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