Prosecutor: Man tried to kill 2 with hammer

He caught girlfriend, friend in bed; defense disputes charges

By Paris Achen, Columbian courts reporter

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After fracturing the skulls of his girlfriend and his best friend with a hammer upon finding them in bed together, Marcus Morrison then cursed the victims by name on Facebook, prosecutors said.

In opening statements of Morrison's trial Monday, Clark County Deputy Prosecutor Luka Vitasovic said that Facebook post and other evidence he plans to present this week at Morrison's trial will prove that Morrison intended to kill the victims, Rena Donnelly and Aaron Warner. Donnelly and Warner survived the attack.

Morrison's defense attorney, Jeff Sowder, asked a 12-member jury to question whether Morrison intended to murder Donnelly and Warner, or "do you just have a guy mad at seeing his best friend sleeping with his girlfriend?" He said Morrison, 31, of Battle Ground is guilty only of assaulting the couple.

Morrison is charged with two counts of first-degree attempted murder and two counts of second-degree attempted murder.

The night before the Nov. 23 attack, Morrison, Donnelly and Warner went out drinking together at Main Street Station Bar & Grill in Battle Ground to celebrate Warner's upcoming birthday, Warner testified Monday.

While they were at the bar, Morrison became involved in an altercation with Donnelly's ex-boyfriend, who happened to be at the bar at the same time, Warner said.

"Fed up with the defendant's antics, Rena indicated to (Morrison) that she wanted to end the relationship," Vitasovic said.

At some point, someone at the bar called the police to report the altercation, and Morrison left the bar without Donnelly and Warner.

Donnelly and Warner then drove to Warner's house in Vancouver, where they slept together, Warner said.

Later, Morrison went to Warner's residence in Vancouver's Kevanna neighborhood because he suspected that Warner and Donnelly were having sex, Vitasovic said.

He entered Warner's residence through an unlocked door, inched open the door to Warner's bedroom and saw Warner and Donnelly in bed together, Vitasovic said. Morrison then went to the house's garage, armed himself with a hammer and returned to the bedroom, where he first assaulted Warner, the prosecutor said.

"I woke up, and Rena is screaming," Warner recounted Monday, "and I have an excruciating pain in the back of my head." He said he moved his hand to the back of his head and felt blood gushing out.

Morrison raised the hammer and told Donnelly "Shut the (expletive) up, (expletive); you're next," Warner said.

Then, Morrison struck Donnelly in the head with the hammer as she attempted to get away, Warner said.

In a separate bedroom, Warner's roommate, Jon Riggs, also awoke to the sound of the screams. He testified Monday that he went into the hallway and saw Morrison standing and holding a hammer in the doorway of Warner's bedroom.

"He said he was tired of people treating him like (expletive), and that Rena was cheating on him," Riggs said.

Riggs said he told Morrison to leave the house but didn't realize until later when he switched on the lights that Morrison had attacked Warner and Donnelly with the hammer. Donnelly was unconscious in the bedroom, while Warner was walking around with blood streaming down his head, face, neck, arms and hands, two Vancouver police officers testified Monday.

Donnelly and Warner were transported to PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center, where Donnelly had to undergo emergency surgery, Vitasovic said.

Testimony in Morrison's trial is scheduled to resume Tuesday in Superior Court Judge Robert Lewis's courtroom.