Attorneys made their opening arguments and selected members of the jury Friday, Nov. 12, in the Rory Kuenzi homicide trial.
Kuenzi, 26, Weyauwega, was charged one year ago with hit-and-run involving death and with homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle.
He is accused of driving from an underage drinking party at approximately 3:45 a.m. Oct. 23, 2004, then hitting and killing the 20-year-old Kevin McCoy, who was walking along Butts Road north of State Highway 54 in the town of Farmington.
Due to extensive publicity in this case and in the deer-slaying case from January 2009, Judge Philip Kirk ordered an out-of-county jury for Kuenzi’s homicide trial. Fourteen jurors were selected Friday in Dodge County and bussed to Waupaca Sunday afternoon.
The trial is scheduled to run from Monday through Friday, Nov. 15-19.
Attorneys for the prosecution and the defense laid out their version of events and provided an outline of their arguments Friday.
Jurors will have to determine which of the witnesses are telling the truth since there are conflicting versions of what happened that night.
Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Gabrysiak told jurors that there are two major facts in dispute in this case.
Was Kuenzi intoxicated when he drove away from the underage drinking party prior to striking McCoy?
Did Kuenzi know that he hit McCoy and not a deer prior to leaving the scene of the incident?
Gabrysiak said the prosecution will provide evidence and testimony to prove that Kuenzi was drunk and that he knew he hit McCoy.
The prosecution’s evidence includes a DNA sample from McCoy’s pants legs that matches Kuenzi’s DNA. Debris found near McCoy’s body matches the broken sidelight on Kuenzi’s Chevy S-10. And the damage to Kuenzi’s truck matches the damage to McCoy’s body, according to investigators.
Gabrysiak said several witnesses will testify that Kuenzi was intoxicated when he got into his pickup truck and left the party.
Witnesses will also testify that “words were exchanged between Mr. Kuenzi and Mr. McCoy,” Gabrysiak said, after Kuenzi accused a young woman, whom he had been seeing, of “acting like a whore.”
Gabrysiak also read from a letter that Kuenzi sent to Lisa Strobel on Nov. 4, 2004, while he was in jail: “After one night of drinking, and an argument later, my life, everything I worked for, is gone.”
Among the witnesses will be Adam Klotzbuecher, who testified during a John Doe hearing that he helped Kuenzi carry McCoy’s body off the road and into a ditch.
David Dickmann, who is part of the legal team defending Kuenzi, cast doubt on Klotzbuecher’s reliability as a witness.
He noted that Klotzbuecher has changed his account of the events that night several times. Initially, Klotzbuecher told investigators that he had been following Kuenzi’s truck down Butts Road when he accelerated, pulled into the other lane and was driving directly beside Kuenzi as if to pass.
“That’s the time the accident happened,” Dickmann said, noting that Kuenzi may have been distracted at the time that he hit McCoy.
Kotzbuecher also returned to the party later, Dickmann said, without telling anyone at the party that Kuenzi had hit McCoy.
Dickmann noted that the rural road was narrow and poorly lit, it was dark and rainy, McCoy was wearing dark clothes and walking with the traffic rather than against it.
“It’s the facts in this case that will speak louder than words,” Dickmann said. “At the time of that tragic accident, Rory Kuenzi didn’t know that he struck Kevin McCoy.”
Gabrysiak depicted Kuenzi as an unreliable witness. He described the first time deputies went to interview Kuenzi at his home. They met Doug Kuenzi, the defendant’s father, and a young man who initially identified himself to them as Rory’s brother, Robbie Kuenzi, until the real Robbie Kuenzi came out of the house.
Kuenzi’s aunt accused of trying to interfere
Waupaca County Coroner Barry Tomaras and Deputy Coroner Sharon Henning are also scheduled to testify at the Kuenzi trial.
Gabrysiak said that while Henning was investigating the scene of crash on the morning of Oct. 23, she received a call from Debbie Kuenzi, another deputy coroner and Kuenzi’s aunt.
Debbie Kuenzi reportedly told Henning that Tomaras had assigned her to take over investigation of the crash scene. Henning thought the call was suspicious, did not leave the scene and reported the incident to Tomaras.
Gabrysiak said Tomaras will testify that “at no time did he call Debbie Kuenzi and ask her to relieve Sharon Henning.”