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Graphic testimony describes how car theft suspect died

Graphic testimony describes how car theft suspect died

SPOKANE, Wash. - Graphic testimony and imagery were presented to the court Thursday on the second day of Gail Gerlach's manslaughter trial.

Gerlach said he was acting in self defense when he fired the shot that killed Brendon Kaluza-Graham last March as the 25-year-old drove away in Gerlach's stolen SUV.

In this case, prosecutors have to prove that a bullet fired from Gerlach's gun killed Kaluza-Graham, but post-mortem pictures also illustrate for the jury what the shooting victim was and wasn't able to do the last seconds he was alive.

Prosecutors say while Gerlach's SUV was stolen from his driveway his safety was not in jeopardy when he fired a single shot at the fleeing thief.

"You'll see that Mr. Kaluza-Graham was not turned facing Mr. Gerlach as Mr. Gerlach described, but was in fact shot directly in the back of the head as he was facing forward directly through the back of that seat," deputy prosecutor Deric Martin said.

Spokane Medical Examiner Dr. Sally Aiken backed up that claim on the witness staned with autopsy photos and a Styrofoam head depicting Kaluza-Graham's head.

"I'm estimating this is about where the gunshot was just off the mid-line towards the right five and one-quarter inches below the plane of the head," Aiken said.

Gerlach said he opened fire when Kaluza-Graham raised his arm with what appeared to be a weapon in his hand 

As it turns out, Kaluza-Graham was armed the day he was shot. Aiken said she found a knife in his pants during his autopsy. But, Aiken said, after Gerlach's bullet severed the suspect's spine, there's no way he could have ditched a weapon out the window or put that knife back in his pocket.

"He would be completely unable to move physically after this injury," she said.

Aiken thinks Kaluza-Graham also immediately lost consciousness and that's why the stolen vehicle crashed into a garage two and a half blocks from the defendant's driveway, narrowly missing kids waiting for a school bus.

Prosecutors say that's another dangerous consequence of Gerlach's use of deadly force, but defense attorney Richard Lee claims only Kaluza-Graham broke the law that day.

"The evidence is going to show that since Gail Gerlach feared for his life that he is not guilty and the evidence is going to show that Gail Gerlach is the victim not the criminal," Lee said.

Court is in recess Friday. When court resumes Monday the lead detective investigating the case will be one of the first on the witness stand. Gerlach will also be taking the stand in his own defense.