Murder trial gets underway with opening statements

Battle Ground man accused in August 2015 altercation at storage facility

By Jessica Prokop, Columbian Courts Reporter

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A prosecutor told jurors Thursday that a man accused of beating another man to death with an aluminum baseball bat could not have been acting in self-defense.

Stephen Reichow, 35, struck Brandon Maulding nearly 20 times in the head with the bat during an altercation Aug. 1, 2015, outside a storage facility in Battle Ground, Deputy Prosecutor James Smith said during opening statements in Reichow’s murder trial in Clark County Superior Court.

The two Battle Ground men were acquaintances. Maulding, who was 36, was later pronounced dead at an area hospital.

Smith argued that the level of violence indicates it was not self-defense.

“A picture can be worth a thousand words, and I think this picture says a lot,” Smith said as he flashed a grisly photo of Maulding’s body across a large screen. “He beat him to a pulp.”

Reichow’s defense attorney, Sean Downs, argued that there are two sides to every story and “sometimes three, four, five. It’s not always going to fit together perfectly for you,” he told the jury.

What the attorneys do seem to agree on is that Reichow and Maulding had been hanging out earlier in the day. They were picked up by another friend, Anne Tanninen, from Maulding’s house and went to a storage unit that Tanninen had rented.

The trio was inside the storage space when Tanninen received a strange phone call, Smith said, from someone talking about $5,000, drugs and picking something up. He said both Reichow and Tanninen shared paranoid beliefs about the world, and they thought they were being “gang stalked.” Gang stalking can include being harassed by an organized group of people.

Up until the call, which turned out to be a prank, nothing was out of the ordinary, Smith said. The trio were unloading some items at the storage space, and Maulding was toying around with a bat inside the unit, he said.

Tanninen became upset after the call, however, and started arguing with Reichow, Smith said. She and Maulding confronted Reichow about possibly being associated with the call.

Downs said Maulding started taunting Reichow with the bat, saying “Come here, boy. Come here, boy.” Maulding, who had been drinking earlier in the day, was still intoxicated and threatened Reichow, Downs said.

Reichow ran out of the unit and hid under a trailer west of the building, Downs said. Reichow waited for a bit and then came out from under the trailer. That’s when Maulding and Tanninen came around the corner in her vehicle. Downs said Maulding left the vehicle and approached Reichow with the baseball bat in hand. Tanninen left her car in the parking lot and walked away.

Smith told the jury that as Tanninen left the area, she heard the sound of the bat hitting the ground.

“What happens next, Brandon can’t tell us,” Smith said. “The defendant brutally, fatally beat Brandon to death with that baseball bat.”

Downs argued that Maulding came after Reichow, so he disarmed him and used the bat against him.

“This was a situation of flight or fight. Mr. Reichow chose both,” Downs said, adding that some homicides are justified.

Maulding didn’t have any defensive wounds, Smith argued, and other than a ripped shirt, Reichow was uninjured. He said toxicology tests found Maulding had a blood-alcohol level of 0.26, more than three times the amount needed to prove a DUI, so it would have been difficult for him to fight back.

Smith said Maulding’s eye sockets and skull were fractured, his jaw was shattered, a piece of his ear was torn off and his skin was ripped open. He said that after the beating, a witness saw Reichow strangling Maulding as he lay dying on the ground.

According to court records, police were dispatched about 11:50 p.m. to the area near Southeast Grace Avenue and Second Street. Officers found Maulding lying on the ground unconscious but breathing. He was taken to PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center in Vancouver, where he was pronounced dead less than an hour later.

Police found a baseball bat, covered in blood, near Maulding’s body. They also encountered Reichow, who was covered in blood, court documents show.

Downs told the jury that Reichow was the one who summoned help for Maulding.

Reichow’s trial continues Monday.