Several hours before he suffocated his sister and her best friend, Daniel Betournay left a message on a friend’s answering machine saying it was urgent they speak.
But when Chris Gatewood, 15, returned Betournay’s call about 4 p.m. on Dec. 14, Betournay said he was busy and asked if he could call back, Gatewood testified Tuesday in the second day of Betournay’s murder trial in Walla Walla Superior Court.
When Betournay called back between 4:15 and 4:30 p.m., Gatewood asked what was so important.
“He goes, ‘Well, I’ve done something real bad and I need to talk to you,”’ Gatewood testified.
Betournay, 15, has admitted he tied the two girls’ wrists and ankles with duct tape and then fixed plastic bags over their heads. He is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of his sister April and her friend, Beth Garbe, both 14.
A bus driver testified he let the girls out at the Betournay house at 3:45 p.m. Betournay’s mother returned home and found the bodies at 4:45 p.m.
Betournay’s lawyer told jurors Monday in opening statements that his client suffers from a mental illness that made him incapable of premeditating the slayings.
But Walla Walla Prosecutor Jim Nagle said Betournay was a normal child before the slayings.
Gatewood testified Tuesday that Betournay showed up at his house at about 9:30 p.m. on Dec. 14. “He said he needed to use my phone to call 911 because he’d done something bad and needed to turn himself in,” Gatewood testified. “He said he’d be going to jail for what he’d done.”
He said he did not ask what Betournay had done.
Instead, Gatewood testified, “I asked him if he’d be able to pay me back the money he owed me. I didn’t know if he’d be able to pay me back if he went to jail.”
Betournay owed Gatewood lunch money, but the teenager did not say how much money was involved.
“He pulled out a wad of money from his pocket and gave me a twenty. I asked what it was for and he said it was the money he owed me plus interest,” Gatewood said.
The only reference Betournay made to the slayings, Gatewood said, was “he said his sister and her friend were going to a concert and now they aren’t.”
Gatewood said he refused to allow Betournay to use the phone to call authorities but he did not say why. He did, however, let Betournay call home to find out if the police were there.
“He didn’t say anything into the phone,” Gatewood said.
Earlier Tuesday, Dr. Nikolas Hartshorne testified that the girls likely died within three to five minutes after Betournay put the bags over their heads and fastened them with duct tape.
Hartshorne, a King County assistant medical examiner, performed both autopsies.
The combination of the plastic bags and the tightness of the duct tape around their necks likely killed them quickly, Hartshorne testified.
Defense attorney William McCool tried to suggest it could have taken as long as 40 minutes for the girls to die if any air had seeped into the bags through small tears but Hartshorne refused to change his answer.