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Prosecutor gives opening argument in Jennings murder trial

John Jennings, left, confers with his attorney, Myles Johnson, during a break in Jennings' murder trial Tuesday.

Photo by Dee Camp.
John Jennings, left, confers with his attorney, Myles Johnson, during a break in Jennings' murder trial Tuesday.

— The first day of testimony in the John and Adam Jennings murder trial saw several law enforcement officers testify about getting called more than two years ago for the fatal shooting of a hunter.

John Wayne Jennings, 59, and Adam Shaun Jennings, 29, are accused of first-degree murder in the Sept. 2, 2013, death of grouse hunter Michael Ray Carrigan, 52, Humptulips, on Cow Camp Road near the Jennings home.

A jury of six women and eight men was seated Monday from a pool of 109 potential jurors. Just before deliberations start, the panel will be narrowed to 12 jurors who will decide the men’s fate.

On Tuesday, the first day of testimony, Okanogan County Prosecutor Karl Sloan gave his opening statement, alleging Carrigan and his hunting companion, George Stover, had stopped on Cow Camp Road to pursue a grouse. Carrigan left their pickup truck and went into a meadow while Stover turned the vehicle around, Sloan said.

Shortly after Carrigan shot twice at a grouse, Stover heard another gunshot and saw Carrigan fall, Sloan said. Carrigan got up and was heading back to the truck when another shot rang out from a cabin across the road and Carrigan fell onto his back, Sloan alleged.

Stover went to a nearby house and reported the incident.

Melissa MacDougall, representing Adam Jennings, reserved her opening statement for later in the trial. Myles Johnson, representing John Jennings, gave a brief opening statement.

Johnson told jurors that yes, his client’s residence was the closest to where Carrigan was killed, but he alleged there wasn’t a definitive ballistics match. He urged jurors to listen to what is said during the trial and also what is not said.

First to testify was Michael Whitley, the Okanogan County Sheriff’s Office dispatcher who took Stover’s 911 call in the early evening. The 911 recording was played, with Stover telling the dispatcher someone from the house “across the road started shooting at him,” meaning Carrigan.

He said he didn’t go to check on Carrigan because “the guy was still shooting,” according to the tape.

Deputy Isaiah Holloway said he responded and met up with Stover, then they and deputy Terry Shrable went in separate vehicles to the scene. With shrable covering him, Holloway said he located Carrigan’s body and confirmed he was dead.

The hunter was lying on his back, not breathing, and with blood coming from his mouth and nose. His eyes were open, the deputy testified.

The deputies and Stover retreated a bit to wait for backup.

Shrable also testified that they backed off to await more officers.

Later, when Sgt. Tony Hawley arrived, Holloway and Shrable worked their way along a fence line south of the Jennings residence while Hawley used the loudspeaker on his vehicle to call to the cabin’s occupants, they testified.

The two suspects eventually came out of the house and met with officers, which by that time included a couple more deputies, a U.S. Border Patrol agent, a state Department of Fish and Wildlife officer, a Washington State Patrol trooper and a Tonasket police officer.

Photographs of the body, Carrigan’s gun - which was found some distance from the body - blood-spattered grass and other plants, the Jennings home and other areas of the scene were shown to the jury.

MacDougall and Johnson objected to showing some of the photos, including one showing Carrigan’s bloodied face, to the jury.

Outside the jury’s presence, the three attorneys presented their arguments to Superior Court Judge Chris Culp.

“These really demonstrate what the officers were seeing,” Sloan said. “We can’t sanitize the type of crime we’re dealing with.”

MacDougall argued there was no reason to show the photos and Johnson suggested they would prejudice the jury.

Culp allowed the photos, which he said provided a visual way to support the officers’ testimony. He reminded attorneys that in selecting the jury, potential jurors were asked how they felt about viewing graphic photos.

“It would be inappropriate not to allow them,” he said.

Others testifying Tuesday included Hawley, deputies Kevin Kinman and Laura Wright, detective Debbie Behymer, state wildlife agent Troy McCormick, state Department of Fish and Wildlife Sgt. Dan Christensen and Tim Carrigan, the deceased man’s brother.

The officers testified about securing the crime scene overnight, searching the home and outbuildings with a warrant, measuring locations of Michael Carrigan’s body and rifle and points in and around the Jennings home, and gathering other evidence. A number of weapons and ammunition, some apparently altered, were seized.

Tim Carrigan testified he’d been hunting separately from the other two, and using a shotgun.

Michael Carrigan was shot with a .22-caliber rifle.

He said he’d returned to the nearby cabin where they’d been staying and was making dinner when Stover arrived and told him Michael Carrigan had been killed. He said he didn’t believe it at first, but once he realized Stover was telling him the truth, “everything was a mess from there” to him.

The trial will continue today, Nov. 18.

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