The deputy prosecutor in the felony harassment trial of a suspended Spokane police detective referred to it in court Monday as a “stupid case” that he didn’t take willingly.
“You think I wanted to file this stupid case? You’re wrong,” deputy prosecutor Mark Lindsey told defense attorney Chris Bugbee while the judge and jury were out of the courtroom.
“It wasn’t a question of choice,” said Lindsey, who in March 2007 filed the felony charge that led to the arrest of Detective Jay Mehring in the office of police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick.
The prosecutor’s comments, audible to the few spectators in the courtroom, came after Mehring’s ex-wife, Lisa, told the jury she never heard him say he was going to burn down the couple’s home with her in it.
Jay Mehring immediately moved out of the couple’s home near Colbert after she filed for divorce in November 2006, she testified.
Her testimony was abruptly halted Monday afternoon after she testified that she was surprised to see two Spokane police detectives show up at her attorney’s office in March 2007, where she’d gone to discuss the divorce. Lisa Mehring said she was unaware before the meeting that her had attorney called police to be present at the meeting.
Bugbee, defending Mehring, said he wants to question those two detectives before he begins cross-examination of Lisa Mehring.
She described the estranged couple’s relationship as “amicable” until March 2007, when financial disputes arose as the divorce was about to be finalized.
At least two of Mehring’s fellow police officers, Sgts. Troy Teigen and Dave Overhoof, filed department reports, claiming they heard him make threats about burning down the couple’s home while his wife was inside. Teigen, Overhoof and Mehring had worked together in law enforcement in Clarkston before they moved to the Spokane Police Department in the 1990s.
Those reports triggered an internal affairs investigation, then an outside investigation by the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office, leading to Mehring’s arrest March 30, 2007. He has been suspended without pay since.
Lindsey called Lisa Mehring as the first prosecution witness Monday when testimony got under way after a jury was selected last week before Superior Court Judge Michael Price. Lisa Mehring, a pharmacist, described her 18-year relationship with Mehring, whom she met at Washington State University.
As their relationship began to deteriorate, Lisa Mehring, said she and her husband began to argue over finances and domestic chores.
“You filed for divorce, but do you still love him?” the prosecutor asked the witness. She nodded yes.
“Do you still love him today?” Lindsey followed, getting another affirmative response.
“Just can’t live with him?” Lisa Mehring again nodded yes.
At a March 2007 wrestling match involving the couple’s two young sons, Mehring presented his wife with a legal paper unfreezing their stock trading account. Later that day, the couple had a brief, “heated” phone conversation, in which Mehring said “he was going to destroy everything and ruin me, or along those lines,” Lisa Mehring said.
“Destroy or ruin?” Lindsey asked.
“Burn everything,” Lisa Mehring responded.
“Did he say he was going to burn the house down with you in it?” the prosecutor then asked.
“He didn’t say that,” she said. “He just said he was going to ‘burn everything’ and destroy me.”
The prosecutor returned to that topic after the lunch hour break.
“Jay never said he would burn the house, ” Lisa Mehring testified. She said the word “burn” was frequently used by her husband, who worked as an undercover drug detective and is a decorated officer.
She later said she got a restraining order against her husband on the advice of the couple’s mutual friend, Teigen, who apparently was concerned about her welfare.
Also Monday, the prosecution played a 911 call Lisa Mehring made in March 2007 in which she asked sheriff’s deputies to stand by at the couple’s house after she returned from an out-of-town trip. “He threatened to kill me yesterday,” Lisa Mehring told the dispatcher, saying she was fearful even though her husband no longer lived there.