The discovery of new evidence appears to have prompted a defense attorney to seek a mistrial earlier this month in the first-degree murder case against a Spokane man charged with the 2016 sword-attack killing of the nephew of U.S. Sen. Jon Tester of Montana.
Testimony in the trial against John A. Radavich, 24, began on April 10, but Superior Court Judge Maryann Moreno declared a mistrial on April 11 at the request of defense attorney Douglas Pierce.
Radavich is charged with killing Robert J. Tester, 35, who is the nephew of Sen. Tester. According to court records, Tester’s daughter, who was 8 at the time, called her grandmother on Sept. 6, 2016, to say that a man she didn’t know had broken into their home near Spangle and killed her father.
Spokane County deputies arrived to find a gruesome scene, with a blood trail leading from Tester’s bedroom and leading throughout the house. Tester had suffered multiple blunt-force and stab wounds, including a blow to the back of his head by a firewood splitting maul.
The case remained unsolved until Radavich called a friend in Texas on Dec. 26, 2016. Radavich explained in great detail how he had killed Tester on the belief that Tester had assaulted a 17-year-old girl that Radavich had previously dated.
“I thought about it and prayed about it. I finally said I’ve had enough,” Radavich said. “I took care of it. I killed a man.”
During the same recorded phone call with his friend in Texas, Radavich said the only other person he told of the killing was the former girlfriend.
“I needed her to help cover my tracks,” Radavich said on the phone call.
However, the trial came to a halt on April 11 when Pierce, the defense attorney, asked for the mistrial after learning about a text message sent on the night of the killing by the girlfriend to a man identified in court records as Christopher Santucci.
According to court records, Spokane County Sheriff’s Detective Robert Satake found that text message while preparing for testimony.
“On April 11, 2019, the defense had an opportunity to review the information with his client in private outside the presence of the state and the court,” records state. “After that review, defense counsel affirmatively requested a mistrial to effectively represent the defendant in this matter.”
Deputy Spokane County prosecutors Kelly Fitzgerald and Richard Whaley did not object to the defense’s motion for a mistrial.
On Friday, Pierce asked Superior Court Judge Maryann Moreno for a hearing on May 10 to interview the girlfriend about her text exchange on the night of the killing.
“This is extremely significant with regards to your defense,” Moreno told Pierce.
She set the May 10 hearing for 2:30 p.m. and delayed the start of the new trial to August 12.
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