In the homicide trial against Chad Magolski, 35, of New London, witnesses are struggling to remember casual conversations from more than four years ago.
At the time, they considered comments Magolski made to be an attempt at humor.
After New London police discovered the body of James Park, 77, two months later, the comments seemed more ominous.
On Dec. 15, 2007, Park’s body was found on the floor of his apartment, located at 301 N. Shawano St., in a converted Victorian home directly across the street from the New London police station.
An autopsy revealed that Park had died six to eight days before he was found. He had been stabbed at least 11 times in the neck, chest and abdomen.
On May 24, 2011, the state attorney general’s office charged Magolski with first-degree intentional homicide.
Magolski’s trial began Monday, March 26, and is expected to continue through the week.
Since there are no witnesses and Magolski has not confessed, the prosecution has built its case on DNA evidence and on comments Magolski made prior to the murder.
In October 2007, Magolski was drinking beer with three people on the front porch of the apartment building. He lived in an upstairs apartment in the same building where Park lived on the first floor.
“Two months before Jim Park is killed, the defendant, Chad Magolski, makes some very telling predictions about the victim,” Assistant Attorney General David Wambach said in his opening remarks to the jury.
Wambach said Magolski predicted that someone would kill Park and “he would lay there and rot and no one would ever find him.”
Noting that Park’s body was showing signs of decomposition when it was found, Wambach said, “Jim Park is rotting in his apartment for a week and nobody knows about it.”
The three people who were on the porch with Magolski in October were called to testify Monday.
One of the witnesses Monday was Michael Dorow, a former resident of the apartment building who had since moved.
Dorow said he was walking by the building when Magolski invited him up to the porch for a beer.
Dorow said Magolski “kind of made a joke … that the guy smelled funny.”
Dorow could not remember exactly what Magolski said four years ago. However, he remembered Magolski saying, “If somebody did him in, he ain’t going to be missed because he’s an old guy and nobody hardly visits him.”
Dorow later testified that he thought Magolski was joking about Park’s death.
“He was laughing the whole time,” Dorow said. “He didn’t sound serious.”
Wambach asked Dorow about statements that he made to police in December 2007. Dorow initially told police that Magolski had commented about Park having a large amount of cash.
“I don’t think I said anything like that,” Dorow said at the trial.
Michael Jones, who lived in the second upstairs apartment in the same building as Magolski and Park, initially testified that he did not know the names of the other two men living in the building.
He also did not remember telling police about Magolski talking about how many children Park had or that he had seen a Christmas card tucked between the door and door jam to Magolski’s apartment.
In his opening statement, Wambach described how investigators believe the murder occurred. The initial blood splatters are found just over three feet from the front door to Park’s apartment. After being stabbed the first time, Park fell to the ground and crawled across the floor to a table. His body was found partially under the table. Eight of the 11 stab wounds were to his abdomen.
Park’s pants’ pocket was turned and the wad of cash that Park often carried was gone.
The killer went into the bathroom and cleaned up the blood on himself and the knife. The knife investigators suspect was used in the murder was found in a dish draining board in the kitchen. A bar of soap was found in the bathroom sink.
On Dec. 10, 2007, Magolski, who was behind on his rent and unemployed at the time, gives the landlord, Darwin Alberts, a $50 bill. Alberts gives police a lunch pail where he keeps the cash he receives from his tenants. There are six $50 bills in the pail and one of them is from Magolski and has what analysts from the State Crime Lab believe to be a blood stain with Park’s DNA.
The prosecution’s case “is based on a series of coincidences, a series of flukes, that Chad killed Mr. Park,” according to Emily Nolan-Plutchak, one of the two lawyers defending Magolski.
“Homicide convictions should not be based on coincidences, but on solid facts and the law,” Nolan-Plutchak said. “You must not accept such obvious speculations in a court of law.”
She noted that the DNA evidence is not conclusive and that it is uncertain if Magolski’s DNA was found on the bar of soap in the apartment.
“The facts in this case will not support a guilty verdict,” she said.