Camas police Officer Stefan Hausinger thought he was about to write just another routine speeding ticket in the early morning hours of May 26, 2011, when he pulled over Dennis Wolter, who was driving a blue Dodge pickup on Southeast Evergreen Highway.
The officer’s eyes took a few moments to adjust to the darkness. Then he noticed the calm 43-year-old motorist from Vancouver was drenched in blood, Hausinger testified Wednesday in Wolter’s aggravated first-degree murder trial in Clark County Superior Court.
Inside the pickup, the officer found a domestic violence no-contact order barring Wolter from any contact with his girlfriend, Kori Fredericksen, whom he was accused of assaulting on May 17.
During the trial’s opening statements Wednesday, Senior Deputy Prosecutor Camara Banfield said Wolter stabbed the 41-year-old Fredericksen to death because, in his words, “‘she narced on me.'” He allegedly dumped her body down an embankment along Southeast Evergreen Highway shortly before Hausinger’s police car radar caught him speeding 51 mph in a 40 mph zone.
“… he killed the one person who could testify against him,” Banfield said.
That motive supports prosecutors’ assertion that Wolter premeditated the murder, Banfield told a jury of six men and six women. The jury was selected earlier Wednesday after a vetting process that began Monday.
Therese Lavallee, Wolter’s attorney, in her opening statement, agreed that her client had stabbed Fredericksen to death but said she would present evidence that he has a diminished mental capacity that affects his ability to form intent.
Wolter was born with brain damage caused by alcohol exposure, Lavallee said. A traumatic blow to the head caused Wolter to sustain additional brain damage, she said. The damage occurred in an area of the brain that controls emotion, self-control, deciphering information, making decisions and forming judgments, she said.
“All of that is what you are required to consider in determining whether the state has proven its case that Mr. Wolter acted with premeditation,” she said.
Wolter and Fredericksen, along with Fredericksen’s son, Kyle, moved in together in February 2011, Lavallee said. On May 17, 2011, a neighbor reported an incident of domestic violence at their home at 1205 W. 39th St. in Vancouver, Banfield said. Vancouver police arrested Wolter on suspicion of domestic violence against Fredericksen. The next day, a judge ordered him not to have any contact with her.
About a week later, Fredericksen was dead, Wolter was pulled over for speeding, and Hausinger was trying to figure out why Wolter and parts of his vehicle were covered in blood.
Wolter told the officer that the blood came from his dog, Charlie, who had been struck by a car earlier in the day, Hausinger said. He said he was on his way to visit his girlfriend, Fredericksen, who, he claimed, had recently moved to Washougal.
But the story didn’t add up, the officer said. Wolter couldn’t produce a receipt from the veterinarian’s office, and the domestic violence no-contact order aroused Hausinger’s suspicion. He called Vancouver police and asked them to make a welfare check at Wolter’s address.
Vancouver police found a bloody scene of broken and bent knives with fibers from Fredericksen’s sweater still clinging to the warped blades, Banfield said.
Meanwhile, Camas police found a bloody tennis shoe about a half mile west of the traffic stop. Down an embankment was Fredericksen’s body, perforated with multiple stab wounds, Banfield said. Her black purse was dangling from a tree branch, said Camas police Officer Carlos Gonzalez. When Gonzalez dialed the number Wolter said belonged to Frederickson, a ringtone sounded from the purse, Gonzalez testified.
The maximum sentence for aggravated first-degree murder is capital punishment. However, last year, Prosecutor Tony Golik decided not to pursue the death penalty in the case. He hasn’t given specific reasons for his decision, but Wolter’s defense attorneys have said they had given Golik information that Wolter has an undisclosed mental illness.
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that it is unconstitutional for a mentally ill or developmentally disabled person to face the death penalty.
Testimony in the trial resumes at 9 a.m. today.