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Trial underway in case of Idaho woman charged with Montana homicide

UPDATED: Fri., Aug. 10, 2018

Associated Press

LIBBY, Mont. – A trial is underway in northwestern Montana in the case of an Idaho woman charged with killing her former boyfriend on a rural road near Yaak in January 2017.

Ezra Skinner testified this week that his wife, Sarah Carpenter, shot and killed 31-year-old Travis Gillett after drugging, binding and abducting him from Pondera, Idaho.

The trial is taking place in District Court in Libby.

Defense attorney Greg Rapkoch told jurors on Monday that Carpenter would testify it was Skinner who abducted and killed Gillett because he believed Gillett had upset Carpenter so badly she had a miscarriage. Skinner believed the baby was his, but it was Gillett’s, Rapkoch said during opening statements.

Skinner said after loading Gillett into the car they drove to the Libby area. He said he believed they were looking for places to throw him in the river and stopped at a bridge above the Libby Dam. He said they got Gillett out of the car, but then loaded him back up.

Skinner testified they drove back through Libby to Troy and north through Yaak, stopping several times.

At one stop on Yaak River Road, Skinner said he got out of the car to relieve himself and Carpenter forced Gillett at gunpoint down an embankment and shot him, The Western News reports .

Prosecutors allege Carpenter returned to Idaho and reported Gillett missing before traveling back to Montana and leading law enforcement officers to his body. She said she searched in the area she did because Gillett’s cellphone and wallet had been left in a plastic bag on her front door with a note referring to the area.

Prosecutors said surveillance video from a business in Yaak indicated Carpenter and Skinner both lied in saying they hadn’t been in Yaak in the days surrounding the killing.

Skinner, who also was initially charged with deliberate homicide, pleaded guilty in March to tampering with or fabricating evidence in an agreement with prosecutors. He faces up to 10 years in prison. Skinner told investigators in March that Carpenter had said on Jan. 12, 2017, that she planned to kill Gillett, who was shot two days later.

Skinner testified he and Carpenter deleted text messages and records of phone calls and sold his gun, which he said was the murder weapon, to a relative of Carpenter’s.

Prosecutors were expected to call additional witnesses on Friday before the defense presented its case.

Carpenter and Skinner married in June 2017 and she had twins, a boy and a girl, after their arrests in August 2017. Carpenter also had a child with Gillett.

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