Clark County Prosecuting Attorney Tony Golik clutched a kitchen knife with a bent blade as he faced the jury. The knife was one of five Dennis Wolter used a to kill his estranged girlfriend, Kori Fredericksen, in May 2011, Golik said during closing arguments Wednesday in Wolter’s murder trial.
When one of the knives bent or broke, Wolter had to fetch another one to finish the killing. Each time, Golik said, Wolter had time to reflect for “more than a moment in time” about what he was doing. That’s the standard for premeditation, Golik said.
Instead, “he went back to his grisly work,” the prosecutor said.
Wolter, 46, is accused of stabbing Fredericksen, 41, more than 70 times in his Vancouver home at 1205 W. 39th St. He is charged with first-degree aggravated murder, which requires prosecutors to prove intent and premeditation. Though it is Washington’s only capital crime, the prosecution is not seeking the death penalty.
Wolter’s attorney, Therese Lavallee, acknowledged the killing happened but argued that it was not premeditated. She claimed that the defendant has fetal alcohol spectrum disorder and that it, as well as a traumatic brain injury at age 18, caused brain damage that interferes with his ability to premeditate. One defense expert testified that his brain functions at the level of a 12-year-old.
The jury began deliberations around 4 p.m. Wednesday but adjourned an hour later without a verdict. They’ll resume deliberations at 9 a.m. today.
In closing arguments, Golik described multiple incidents in which, Golik said, Wolter showed his capacity for premeditation.
On April 9, 2011, Wolter wrote a note, found in Fredericksen’s purse after she was slain. In the note, Wolter promised “never (to) touch or hurt Kori abusively as long (as) she is with me.” Golik depicted the note as a veiled threat about what would happen if she ever left him.
Neighbors called police May 17, 2011 to respond to a domestic disturbance at the Wolter home, where Wolter, Fredericksen and her 8-year-old son lived together. Before police arrested him on suspicion of fourth-degree domestic assault and malicious mischief, Wolter went to the home of his friend, Paula Gardner, and gave her money to bail him out.
The next day, a Clark County District Court judge ordered Wolter not to contact Fredericksen. That meant Wolter couldn’t return home for a few days.
On the day of the killing, May 25, 2011, Wolter went to court
to change lawyers for the domestic violence case and had lunch with his boss. After lunch he went to the bank, where he chatted with a teller he knew.
“He makes it clear to her that’s he’s upset, he’s mad,” Golik said. “Being upset, being mad is motive.”
“He even tells the teller (Fredericksen) will get what’s coming to her,” Golik said.
At 11:05 p.m., Wolter called Fredericksen at a friend’s apartment, and they had a more than four-minute conversation. Fredericksen’s friend then dropped her off near Wolter’s house, to which he had returned. At 11:35 p.m., Wolter called Fredericksen’s cellphone again but this time, he hung up. That’s probably because she arrived at the house, Golik said.
When Fredericksen walked through the front door, “it was nothing short of an ambush,” Golik said. Blood spatter and a pool of blood indicates she was killed near the home’s front door, he said.
Directly after the killing, some time between 11:35 p.m. and 12:20 a.m. when Camas police pulled Wolter over for speeding on Southeast Evergreen Highway, Wolter dumped Fredericksen’s body in a 40-foot ravine along the highway, Golik said.
Camas police stopped Wolter and found him and his blue Dodge pickup truck covered in Fredericksen’s blood. Wolter told the officers that his black Lab, Charlie, had been struck by a vehicle during a game of fetch earlier that day and the blood came from transporting the dog to a veterinarian’s office, where the animal died. He calmly maintained the story during a more than hourlong interrogation with Vancouver police. When Wolter was transported to jail, he told another inmate that he killed Fredericksen because she had snitched on him in the domestic violence case, Golik said.
Golik scoffed at defense expert testimony that brain damage from fetal alcohol spectrum disorder left Wolter with the mental capacity of a 12-year-old.
“Who among us could have done better with a story when you’re covered in blood?” Golik asked the jury.
Lavallee then defended her experts. She said two psychologists and a psychiatrist are in the forefront of research on fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.
The disorder is “not voodoo,” Lavallee said. “It’s real.”
She said Wolter has damage to his orbital frontal cortex, which operates executive functions. Conscious decision-making and self-regulation happen in the orbital frontal cortex and allow people to act in a socially appropriate manner. The brain damage can cause people with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder to lose control when faced with stressful situations, she said.
“The fact that he can hand bail to his friend” doesn’t mean he had control on the night he killed Fredericksen, she said.
She said Wolter had nine days of stressful incidents that led up to the slaying: He was arrested. Fredericksen continued to contact him repeatedly despite a restraining order. He couldn’t return to his home. His possessions and some of his employer’s possessions were missing from the home. And Fredericksen had been doing meth, according to previous testimony.
“Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder is subtle,” Lavallee said. “You have it, and not even the people you have around you will know it until the stress is so great that your brain short circuits.”
Golik said that the jury shouldn’t buy that argument.
He said that if Camas police hadn’t pulled Wolter over the night of the killing, he might have gotten away with the crime.
“He only got caught because he was going 11 mph over (the speed limit), and he got caught red-handed,” Golik said, showing the jury a photo of Wolter’s blood-stained hands.