Jury deliberates for three hours
By Robert Cloud
A jury of eight men and four women found Chad Magolski guilty of murdering 77-year-old James Park.
Judge Philip Kirk scheduled sentencing for 1:30 p.m. Thursday, April 12.
First-degree intentional homicide carries a mandatory life sentence. The only issue at sentencing is whether Kirk will find Magolski eligible for parole.
The jury ended its deliberations shortly after 4 p.m. Thursday, March 29. They deliberated more than three hours after hearing closing arguments from the prosecution and the defense.
“The defendant stole something much more than money from James Park,” Assistant Attorney General David Wambach told the jury during his closing remarks. “He stole from a family a father and a grandfather. He stole from James Park the opportunity for a dignified death. He stole from all of us the sense of safety, security and tranquility that we all deserve in our community.”
Wambach repeatedly reminded the jury of Magolski’s comments regarding Park: “Someone could kill him and he would lay there and rot and no one would ever find him.”
Wambach said that while the witnesses did not all remember the words in the exact same way, “The same concept was expressed.”
He said Magolski hated Park because the elderly man made loud slamming noises late at night that kept Magolski awake and he hated him for being messy and smelly.
“The defendant referred to Jim Park as a stinky, old fossil who drinks all the time,” Wambach said, arguing that Magolski brutally stabbed Park 11 times not simply for the money that he stole but because he hated his elderly neighbor.
Wambach asked the jury to compare the circumstances surrounding the Park murder in December 2007 to those associated with the Van Dyn Hoven Automotive burglary in May 2000.
“All of the facts tell you it was not a spur of the moment crime,” Wambach said regarding the burglary and the murder.
Describing Magolski as “clever, cunning and crafty,” Wambach said both crimes involved extensive planning.
In the burglary case, Magolski visited Van Dyn Hoven, spoke with employees, then hid in the building and waited till everyone left to break into offices and steal cash. Park’s murder,
“Jim Park was not a random killing in an alley,” Wambach said. “Chad Magolski was able to get in and leave very little of his biological material behind.”
Wambach noted that both the burglary and the murder were motivated by financial gain and a desire for payback. He said Magolski had been terminated just weeks before he broke into business and he targeted Park because he did not like him.
Wambach said both crimes were committed by someone who targeted the victims based on his familiarity with them.
“He could have burglarized any business, but he burglarizes the business he is familiar with because it reduces the variables,” Wambach said, noting that Magolski knew the layout of the business, knew where to find the money, knew where to hide until all the employees left and knew where to exit.
Wambach said Magolski was not only familiar with the apartment building where he lived, but he was familiar with the layout of Park’s apartment because Magolski’s brother had lived there 10 years earlier.
The prosecutor also noted similar behavioral patterns following the crime. In both cases, he said Magolski attempted to cover up the crime by disposing or covering up potential evidence. In the burglary case, Magolski threw away the bank bags and the checks he had stolen along with the cash. He also hid the money he stole in a secret compartment in his closet.
In Park’s murder, Wambach explained that the reason investigators DNA was not found at the crime scene may have been due to Magolski wearing gloves.
“In both cases, he is cooperative with law enforcement,” Wambach said. “Why does a guilty person cooperate with law enforcement? If I don’t cooperate that’s going to put a big spotlight on me.”
Wambach said Magolski learned a lesson from his encounter with police after the burglary: “Be cooperative, but don’t be stupid.”
Defense attorney Troy Nielsen said he did not see anything “clever, cunning and crafty” about his client’s behavior in the Van Dyn Hoven burglary,
“He was fired two weeks before the burglary and he’s at the business the day of the burglary,” Nielsen said. “It didn’t take long to figure out that Chad was a suspect.”
Nielsen stressed that Magolski cooperated with police throughout the investigation, answered all their questions, never attempted to blame someone else and consented to their searching his apartment without a warrant twice.
“What the state wants you to do today is ignore the evidence,” Nielsen said. “This isn’t a situation where there is no evidence. This case is littered with evidence. But none of it is linked to Chad.”
Nielsen reviewed the numerous objects at the crime scene that investigators tested for DNA. Magolski’s DNA was not found on the murder weapon, was not found on the pocket that had been pulled out from Park’s trousers and it was not found on Park’s left sock.
Nielsen then showed the jury a copy of the DNA findings of three items – a desk drawer handle, the pants pocket and the bar of soap. He pointed to a number, 15.2, used to indicate a DNA microvariance.
“It’s a pretty unique variance. It’s rare,” Nielsen said. “The killer has this very rare allele. … Chad does not have a 15.2 allele.”
Nielsen then suggested that the police find the person with the 15.2 allele if they wanted to find Park’s actual killer.
In his rebuttal, Wambach described Nielsen’s arguments as “conjecture or speculation and it’s not based on the evidence.”
Wambach also reminded the jury that while the DNA expert for the defense cast doubt on the validity of the DNA analysis under the old protocols, the expert did not argue on behalf of Magolski’s innocence.
“If the science showed that Chad Magolski was innocent, do you think he would have come all this way and not testify that he was innocent?” Wambach asked the jury.
Wambach also compared how the new protocols affected the DNA analysis regarding both the bar of soap and the light string touched by one of the investigators at the crime scene.
“You know beyond a shadow of a doubt he touched that light string,” Wambach said, noting that the investigator was chagrined to admit that he had taken off his gloves before switching off the light .
Under the old protocols, Wambach said the analysis determined that Magolski was a contributor to the DNA mixture found on the soap and that the investigator was a contributor to the DNA found on the light string. Under the new protocols, it could not be statistically determined if either Magolski or the investigator had been a contributor to the DNA mixture found on the soap of the light string.
In his instructions to the jury, Kirk reminded them that they were not to consider the attorney’s remarks as evidence. And he reminded the jury that it is “not necessary that every fact be proved directly.”
“Circumstantial evidence is not necessarily better or worse than direct evidence,” Kirk said.