Prosecutors say the case against Brian Moore will include evidence of not just premeditated murder, greed and financial gain.
“You're gong to hear about twisted love and manipulation.”,” Deputy Prosecutor Larry Haskell told jurors during his opening statement this morning.
Haskell told the jury of 10 women and 4 men - two are alternates - that they'll hear how Moore planned the December 2007 murder of Dale Robert Stark with Stark's estranged wife, Shellye L. Stark in order to access his assets, which included a $400,000 life insurance policy.
“You're going to see evidence and hear evidence that Brian Moore conspired with others to eliminate Dale Stark,” Haskell said.
Haskell described the restraining order Stark obtained and the gun she arranged to get from her sister.
“You're going to hear evidence that this gun was in her hands at the request and demand of Brian Moore,” Haskell said.
Haskell said Moore planned a way for the restraining order to be served that was “designed to anger Dale Stark and put Shellye in a manufactured self defense position, and this type of defense was researched by Brian Moore.”
Dale had a firearm in the kitchen, but it was removed at the request of Moore, Haskell said.
Haskell described Moore researching Dale's bank accounts and assets.
Haskell said Moore set up a “sham trust fund” for Christopher Stark and used the money to by things like a new Pontiac Solstice, which was seized in California when police arrested Moore.
But defense lawyer Jeff Compton said prosecutors are letting their imaginations run wild.
“People are blessed with imaginations, and that's a good thing. But when your imagination runs away from you, if it's not constrained by the facts, it can be kind of a destructive thing,” Compton told jurors. “Authorities have not looked at the facts and compared them to their imaginations. They put a worst possible spin on everything that Brian Moore has said and done.”
Compton said Moore loves Shellye Stark.
“Everything he did for her was to help her because of the situation she was in with her marriage…what took place on Dec. 8, 2007, was not preplanned but was something that came about because of Shellye Stark's fear of her estranged husband.”
Compton told jurors Moore first communicated with Shellye in an online chat room involving prostitution and escorts.
He met her in person in 2007 through another woman he knew in California.
“Brian was immediately impressed with Shellye Stark,” Compton said. “She was intelligent. She was funny. She was personable.”
Moore was helping Shellye draft a more equitable divorce plan. He was shocked when he learned of the murder and devoted himself to helping Shellye, Compton said. That involved looking at any available financial assets that might help pay for her legal defense, Compton said.
Compton told jurors to pay close attention to the testimony of Mel Champagne, an attorney involved in the probate of Dale Stark's will. Champagne told The Spokesman-Review in 2008 that case “has just mushroomed..It's really fun from a practitioner's point of view, because it's very unusual.”
Compton said Champagne's testimony at trial will refute “the existence of the motive.”
“You have simple actions by Brian Moore that have been twisted to try to fit a conspiracy theory,” Compton said. “There was never any plot on behalf of Brian Moore and Shellye Stark to kill Dale Stark, and Brian Moore certainly didn't assist her in that.”
Testifying today were Spokane police officers Mario Juarez and Gene Baldwin, as well as Sgt. Brent Austin, who responded to 1620 S. Maple St. the night Dale Stark was shot to death. The Starks' son, Christopher, also testified.
Christopher Stark said he wanted to stay with his father until his father developed a romantic relationship with a cleaning woman and told Chris she would be moving in.
“There was nothing really I wanted to say to him other than I didn't agree with it,” Chris said.
Chris said his father had been trying to get Shellye back. He said his father never hit him and said he never saw him strike Shellye.
“I don't remember ever seeing it,” Chris said.
But Chris did say he feared his father.
“He was a rather angry man,” Chris said. “When my father got angry, it seemed like the whole world was crashing down.” Chris said Dale would yell, flail his arms and throw things. He said he and Shellye would spent hours cleaning up the home after Dale left in a fit of rage.
Chris also described the night of the shooting and the events leading up to it, including his father's reaction to the restraining order. His testimony mirrors testimony given during his mother's trial in 2009. But it includes new information on the trust fund that was established for him after his father's death. Prosecutors are trying to show jurors that Chris got very little of that money, and that Moore used most of it for himself.
Chris told jurors that he went in on a business plan with Moore involving medical marijuana.