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News / Clark County News

Attorneys deliver opening statements in murder trial for Vancouver man accused of shooting his former girlfriend

Trial continues Thursday with state’s witnesses

By Brianna Murschel, Columbian staff writer
Published: July 10, 2024, 6:41pm
3 Photos
Defendant Austin Navarro enters the courtroom for his murder trial at the Clark County Courthouse on Wednesday afternoon.
Defendant Austin Navarro enters the courtroom for his murder trial at the Clark County Courthouse on Wednesday afternoon. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

A prosecutor told jurors Wednesday a Vancouver man left his former girlfriend to die, bleeding from her heart, just a day after the couple broke up.

As he delivered his opening statement in Clark County Superior Court, Deputy Prosecutor Kelly Ryan said Austin J. Navarro shot the woman with “purpose and intent.”

The victim, Inessa G. Kryshtal, was meeting Navarro, her ex-boyfriend, to return his belongings, Ryan said. He was armed with a 9 mm pistol.

A convicted felon, Navarro was prohibited from possessing a firearm, the prosecutor said.

Navarro, 32, is on trial for charges of second-degree domestic violence murder and unlawful possession of a firearm in the 2021 shooting death of Kryshtal.

On the night of Aug. 23, 2021, Vancouver police found Kryshtal, 27, slumped over in a car near the Chevron gas station at 4100 E. Fourth Plain Blvd. Medical personnel pronounced her dead at the scene. She suffered a gunshot wound to her upper right arm that punctured her heart and a lung, Ryan said.

Defense attorney Josephine Townsend said Navarro admits he was armed, but he didn’t intentionally shoot Kryshtal.

“He will tell you that he was armed,” Townsend said, adding Navarro knew it was a dangerous area because “he was a former gang member.”

Townsend said Navarro was diagnosed as a child with bipolar disorder and takes medication to treat it. She described him as impaired during the incident by his use of methamphetamine, fentanyl and heroin in the days prior. A licensed psychologist will testify that Navarro was “not capable of making intentional decisions,” Townsend said.

Townsend also said the lack of gunpowder and residue at the scene proves the gun wasn’t near Kryshtal. She said Navarro dropped the gun, went to grab it and it went off as Kryshtal was driving away.

“He didn’t have intent to kill her,” Townsend said to the jury. “(This is) manslaughter and not murder-2.”

Ryan told the jury Kryshtal’s passenger’s side window was rolled down about an inch, and “the defendant shot and killed her.”

The medical examiner will testify about Kryshtal’s cause and manner of death, he said.

Officers at the scene found a spent shell casing on the ground near the rear of Kryshtal’s car. Investigators later determined it was a 9 mm Winchester brand round. A box of 9 mm handgun ammunition was seen on the right front passenger’s seat, court records state.

Navarro was named a suspect after police talked with Kryshtal’s family and friends and compared his prior jail booking and social media photos with the Chevron’s surveillance footage. Police located Navarro days later after the incident. He was taken into custody after running from officers, according to court records.

Officers said they located a Glock 43 handgun — a 9 mm pistol with Winchester ammunition — where Navarro fell during the chase, and the magazine was not fully loaded, court records state.

Navarro’s trial, which began Monday, was delayed during the jury selection process due to the courthouse losing power Tuesday. The trial continues Thursday with state’s witnesses.

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This story was made possible by Community Funded Journalism, a project from The Columbian and the Local Media Foundation. Top donors include the Ed and Dollie Lynch Fund, Patricia, David and Jacob Nierenberg, Connie and Lee Kearney, Steve and Jan Oliva, The Cowlitz Tribal Foundation and the Mason E. Nolan Charitable Fund. The Columbian controls all content. For more information, visit columbian.com/cfj.