Independence Examiner, Wednesday 05/01/02

Defense builds case

The Examiner

photo by Jason CookByron Case's defense attorneys on Tuesday began building their version of events leading up to the 1997 shooting death of 18-year-old Anastasia WitbolsFeugen.

Case is charged with first-degree murder. Prosecutors say he killed WitbolsFeugen over her stormy relationship with his best friend, Justin Bruton.

The defense agrees that Case, Bruton and Case's former girlfriend, Kelly Moffett, were with WitbolsFeugen Oct. 22, 1997, the night she was killed. However, they contend WitbolsFeugen and Bruton argued and that WitbolsFeugen got out of Bruton's car and walked away.

In opening statements Monday, the defense said WitbolsFeugen was the "victim of a random act of violence by a stranger." In testimony Tuesday, the defense tried to establish that WitbolsFeugen was carrying a brown purse that was not found with her body, perhaps indicating she was robbed.

Dawn Wright, the first defense witness, was working at the Dairy Queen store on U.S. 24 on the night of the killing. She testified that she remembered WitbolsFeugen waiting in the restaurant and using a pay phone several times.

Wright said she recognized the girl because WitbolsFeugen had asked her for a feminine hygiene article. She said WitbolsFeugen was wearing light-colored, baggy jeans, a jacket and sandals with socks. She also carried a large, brown bag, Wright said.

Wright's testimony is not consistent with other witnesses in the case. WitbolsFeugen's sister, Francesca WitbolsFeugen, testified earlier Tuesday that her sister left the house wearing straight-legged black pants, black boots, and a tan jacket. She did not mention a purse.

A medical examiner confirmed the sister's description of the victim's clothes and testified that a feminine hygiene article found on WitbolsFeugen matched the one described by the clerk.

Prosecutors say the four teens met up at Dairy Queen and went together to Lincoln Cemetery where Case shot WitbolsFeugen in the face at close range. The girls' body was discovered in the cemetery, near U.S. 24 and Truman Road, by a sheriff's deputy on patrol the next morning.

Moffett testified Monday that Case and Bruton talked about the shooting as they drove to pick up WitbolsFeugen. She said Case got a shotgun from the trunk of Bruton's car and shot WitbolsFeugen.

Moffett said she lied to police for three years, saying that WitbolsFeugen walked away from the car in anger. Case gave the same story to police. Bruton could not give his version of events. He was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound two days after WitbolsFeugen's death.

Case's mother also took the stand Tuesday. She testified that her son came home that night and appeared calm and talked normally. he also testified that Case often spoke of being annoyed with WitbolsFeugen because of her frequent arguments with Bruton.

Case is expected to testify today in his own defense. He will tell the jury that WitbolsFeugen got out of the car near Interstate 435 and Truman Road and walked away in the direction of Lincoln Cemetery, his attorney said.

Prosecutors have said they will not seek the death penalty against Case.

If convicted of first-degree murder, he faces life in prison without possibility of parole.

To reach Darla McFarland e-mail or call her at 350-6321.
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