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Murder trial of man charged with killing U.S. senator’s nephew declared mistrial

UPDATED: Fri., April 12, 2019

John A. Radavich, 24, awaits the start of his first-degree murder trial on Wednesday in Spokane County Superior Court. Radavich is charged with killing Robert J. Tester, shown in the slide above Radavich, on Sept. 5, 2016. Tester is the nephew of U.S. Sen. Jon Tester (D-Montana). Radavich told a friend that he killed Robert Tester with a sword after Tester hurt Radavich's former girlfriend. (THOMAS CLOUSE / SR)
John A. Radavich, 24, awaits the start of his first-degree murder trial on Wednesday in Spokane County Superior Court. Radavich is charged with killing Robert J. Tester, shown in the slide above Radavich, on Sept. 5, 2016. Tester is the nephew of U.S. Sen. Jon Tester (D-Montana). Radavich told a friend that he killed Robert Tester with a sword after Tester hurt Radavich's former girlfriend. (THOMAS CLOUSE / SR)

On the second day of testimony, a mistrial was declared Thursday in the first-degree murder trial of John A. Radavich.

Radavich, 24, was charged with killing Robert J. Tester, 35, the nephew of U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont. Details of why Spokane County Superior Court Judge Maryann Moreno declared the mistrial are not yet clear.

Moreno declined to comment until she received an order from the attorneys to make the mistrial official. That order did not arrive before the end of business hours Thursday.

The mistrial came just hours before Tester’s daughter was scheduled to testify. She was 8 at the time of the killing on Sept. 5, 2016, and told investigators that she saw a man dressed in black plunge a sword into her father in their home, located south of Spokane near Spangle.

In opening arguments Wednesday, Deputy Spokane County Prosecutor Richard Whaley said investigators linked Radavich to the killing through DNA found on a firewood-splitting maul that was found at the scene. It’s believed that the maul struck the fatal blow even though Tester suffered dozens of blunt force and puncture injuries.

Radavich was expected to testify. The case broke a day after Christmas 2016 when Radavich called a close friend in Texas and told him about how he had killed a man whom he blamed for abusing a 17-year-old girl that he and Tester had both dated.

Defense attorney Douglas Pierce told the jury in his opening arguments that his client armed himself with a sword and a dagger and knocked on Tester’s door. Pierce claimed that Tester then became the aggressor in a fight to the death that his client finished.

Neither Pierce nor Deputy Spokane County Prosecutor Kelly Fitzgerald, who made the motion calling for the mistrial, responded to requests for interviews.

The attorneys are scheduled to appear next Friday for a status conference to determine a schedule for a new trial.

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