Jury deliberated six hours
By Robert Cloud
A jury found Alison Roe not guilty of first-degree intentional homicide and two lesser charges.
There was no question whether Alison Roe stabbed Craig Dake and caused his death.
Questions the jury had to decide was whether she stabbed him intentionally and whether it was in self defense.
Judge Vicki Clussman told jurors Monday that they must find Roe either guilty or not guilty of first-degree intentional homicide, second-degree intentional homicide or first-degree reckless homicide.
Homicide is intentional if the defendant causes the victim’s death and intends to kill the victim.
It is second-degree intentional homicide if the defendant believes that lethal force was necessary to avoid death, but the belief is unreasonable.
It is reckless homicide if the defendant did not intend the victim’s death but shows reckless disregard for human life.
Comprised of 10 women and two men, the jury deliberated six hours Monday afternoon and evening, following closing arguments by the prosecution and defense.
The trial began Friday, Jan. 13, with jury selection and ran through five days of testimony from Monday through Friday, Jan. 16-20.
Prosecutor questions Roe’s account
District Attorney Veronica Isherwood and public defender Troy Nielsen gave closing arguments Monday, Jan. 23, in Roe’s homicide trial.
Before Isherwood focused on details of Roe’s account of the night the stabbing occurred, she provided jurors with a timeline of their relationship.
In September 2013, Roe and Dake began dating.
Three months later, they “took a nine-month break,” Isherwood said, while Dake lived in Florida, helping a friend, Matt Ferdinand, start a business.
On Aug. 5, 2014, Dake flew back to Wisconsin.
Roe testified that Dake seemed like a different person after he returned from Florida.
Isherwood noted that, according to Roe’s testimony, the first incident of Dake choking Roe occurred in September in Oshkosh.
Two more violent incidents occurred in Waupaca outside their friends’ apartment in downtown Waupaca.
In early December, they moved into an apartment in Fremont.
When asked during the trial why she moved in with Dake after several violent episodes, Roe testified that she loved him.
“A three-month relationship with a nine-month break, and she knew she was so in love with him, she moved in with him?” Isherwood said.
Roe testified that on Jan. 5, 2015, her daughter’s sixth birthday, Dake took her phone and car, which caused her to miss a scheduled visit with her daughters. She said he had been home that morning prior to leaving after they had an argument.
Isherwood noted that Eugene Smith testified that he and Dake spent a week working in North Dakota.
They were heading back home when their truck broke down and they spent an evening at a hotel on Jan. 7.
Smith said Dake told him on Jan. 7, 2015, that Roe had previously attacked him with a knife.
Other friends testified that Dake told them he defended himself from Roe’s knife attack by wrapping a towel around his forearm.
Isherwood reminded jurors that Roe testified that she had only used a knife twice during her arguments with Dake, on Feb. 8 and March 6.
Roe said she used the knife, not to kill or hurt Dake, but to keep him from choking her.
On Feb. 7, 2015, Roe sent several texts to Ferdinand and told him Dake had choked her multiple times since he returned from Florida.
Roe testified that she was seeking Ferdinand’s help in controlling Dake’s violence.
At 1:12 a.m. on Feb. 8, Roe texted Ferdinand and indicated that Dake was choking her again. “I’m going to call the cops,” she said in the text.
At 1:17 a.m. on Feb. 8, Dake made the 911 call, saying that Roe was attacking him. Roe can be heard yelling in the background.
“Did she text Matt Ferdinand before it even happened?” Isherwood asked the jury Monday.
During cross-examination on Friday, Isherwood questioned Roe’s testimony about the Feb. 8 incident.
“You testified that you left before Craig called 911,” Isherwood said. “Did you have the only phone?”
During her testimony, Roe accused Dake of drinking everyday except twice. At the same time, she said she did not have a drinking problem and only consumed alcohol about once every two weeks.
Roe testified that she had only 1 1/2 cans of Mike’s cranberry-flavored hard lemonade the night prior to the Dake’s stabbing in the early morning hours of March 6.
Isherwood told the jury that by Roe’s own testimony, she began drinking on her way to go shopping and have dinner with her daughter, Bryana.
“People who only have an occasional drink don’t take one in the car with them when they go shopping with their 18-year-old daughter at 2 o’clock in the afternoon,” Isherwood said.
During the trial, Isherwood introduced photos showing that investigators found three cans of Mike’s hard lemonade in the apartment the morning of Dake’s death.
According to Roe, she spent the afternoon of March 5 with her daughter Bryana. They went shopping in Appleton, then to Buffalo Wild Wings for dinner.
After dinner on the night of March 5, 2015, Bryana and Roe picked Dake up at the Firehouse Apartments in downtown Waupaca.
They drove back to Fremont, stopping at a BP station along the way, where Dake purchased a bottle of vodka and bottles of orange juice and cranberry juice.
Roe said Dake became mean when he drank vodka, adding that he had been drinking vodka on Feb. 8.
The three spent an hour talking in the kitchen of the Fremont apartment, then Bryana went home.
Roe testified that she went to bed and asked Dake to join her.
While they were laying beside each other, Roe expressed her frustration with the outcome of a custody hearing involving her two youngest children, Roe testified. She then spoke about her frustration with Dake’s lack of interest in having sex with her.
Dake left the bedroom and went into the living room, where he began watching TV.
About 10 minutes later, Roe went into the living room and said to Dake, “See, you don’t care.”
Roe said Dake responded by glaring at her and saying, “You make me sick.”
“The last time he looked at me like that was Feb. 8 and he choked me,” Roe testified.
Roe then took a knife from the kitchen, carried it into the bedroom and placed it on her nightstand.
Roe testified that Dake entered the bedroom, called her “slut” and whore,” then punched her in the face. She said he grabbed her by the throat, then flipped her over on her stomach and clenched her around the neck in a chokehold.
She said she was face down in the pillow, with Dake directly on top of her with one leg between her legs.
“I couldn’t breathe at all,” Roe said.
Roe said Dake loosened his grip in order to place his other leg on the bed.
She said she then grabbed the knife from the nightstand and swung her arm sideways and back.
The medical examiner testified on Tuesday that Dake died following a single, vertical stab wound to the chest. The blade entered 4 inches into Dake’s body, piercing his heart. The evidence indicated that the blade moved straight in and straight out.
During closing arguments Monday, Isherwood and an officer physically demonstrated the stabbing as described by Roe.
Isherwood held the knife in her right hand with the blade pointing up from her fist. The officer was behind her with his right arm around her neck. Isherwood swung her arm sideways, showing that she could not reach the officer in the chest with the knife.
“You cannot stab somebody in the chest when they are laying over you,” Isherwood said. “She stabbed him straight in the chest and he wasn’t leaning over her in the bed.”
The prosecutor also noted the blood splatter on the wall behind the bed, which she attributed to Roe pulling the knife out of Dake’s chest.
Isherwood asks the jury to consider that Roe either stabbed Dake while he was sleeping or that he did not see what was coming.
During her testimony, Roe said she did not realize she stabbed Dake at first and thought he was faking it.
Dake went into the bathroom and Roe followed him, placing the bloody knife down on the bed.
Roe said she found Dake bent over by the bathtub, then he collapsed to the floor.
She crouched down on the floor beside Dake.
“I heard gurgling noise. I thought he was going to throw up,” Roe testified. “I turned him on his side.”
Dake then left the bathroom, went into the bedroom, picked up the knife from the bed and placed it on the kitchen counter, she said.
She then went back into the bedroom and attempted CPR.
During her cross-examination of Roe, Isherwood showed the jury a photo of Dake sprawled out on the bathroom floor, his body inches from the wall and counter.
“Can you describe on the picture how there was room for you to try CPR?” Isherwood asked Roe.
Roe pointed to a space on the photo.
According to her testimony, Roe placed a towel, then Dake’s shirt over his wound to stop the bleeding. She then left the bathroom again changed her blood-covered shirt, put on shoes and pants over the shorts she had been wearing to bed. She puts on her coat to leave, reconsiders leaving, returns to the bathroom, then gets blood on her coat. She changes her coat.
Roe then drove from her apartment on Jefferson Street in Fremont to her daughter Shelby’s residence on Reek Road in Weyauwega. She estimated the trip took between 10 and 12 minutes.
Records indicate that Shelby’s phone was used to call Bryana at 2:30 a.m. March 6, but the call went into voicemail. A second call was placed to Bryana at 2:35 a.m. The call was answered and lasted about eight minutes.
The first call to 911 was made at 2:44 a.m.
Nielsen’s closing arguments
In his closing statements to the jury, Nielsen first questioned Isherwood’s timeline and her statement that there was a nine-month break in the relationship.
He said that while Roe and Dake were separated for nine months, they continued to communicate via phone calls and letters.
Nielsen argued that the physical evidence supports Roe’s account of the incident.
“We know that Ali was injured,” Nielsen said.
He was referring to the bruised and swollen lip that appears in photos of Roe taken immediately after she was arrested.
“How is it possible that Craig punched Ali in the face, strangled her and she suffered the wounds that she did and it’s not self defense?” Nielsen asked. “The injuries support her belief that she was going to die.”
Referring to the bloody shirt and towel in the bathroom and the blood on Roe’s shirt and hands, Nielsen said, “We know from the evidence that Ali tried to help.”
He also noted that Roe did nothing to try and hide the evidence. Everything, including the knife and Roe’s bloody clothes, were left out in plain sight.
Nielsen argued that Roe’s lack of details regarding some aspects of the incident were the result of her having experienced traumatic events.
“You can’t put it all together piece by piece,” Nielsen said. “You were just on the cusp of dying. You had to take extreme steps to keep from dying.”
Nielsen described Roe’s attempts to reach out to Ferdinand as a desperate and risky attempt to get help from someone who was Dake’s good friend.
Nielsen discussed the phone call that Ferdinand had with Dake on Feb. 15. After the phone call, Roe asks Ferdinand if Dake told the truth. Ferdinand responds, yes, he did.
In an email to investigators, Ferdinand said, “Although Craig never said he was hitting or choking her, he never denied it either,” Nielsen told the jury.
“I don’t know of a man who would stand mute if he was accused of hitting or choking his wife or girlfriend,” Nielsen said.
Nielsen reminded the jury of witnesses who testified to seeing Drake physically abuse Roe.
Patrick Tankersley testified that he saw Dake slap Roe outside the Pick n’ Save grocery store in Waupaca.
Roe’s daughter Bryana testified to seeing Dake drag Roe out of her car. Fellow students and a social worker testified to seeing bruises on Roe.
During the trial Friday, Dr. Darald Hanusa with Midwest Domestic Violence Resource Services in Madison testified that Roe exhibited symptoms of Battered Woman Syndrome.
Hanusa spent about eight hours interviewing and testing Roe, plus more than 30 hours reviewing police and medical reports, videos of her interviews with investigators and other documents.
Hanusa said Roe’s story seemed consistent over the course of a year and there was evidence she was abused.
Among the tests that Hanusa conducted was a danger assessment.
If a person scores above 18 on the danger assessment, she is at a severe risk of homicide.
Roe scored 23 on that test, Hanusa said.