While Markus Kaarma gets death threats and awaits his formal arraignment in the shooting death of a foreign exchange student last month in a Missoula, Mont., garage, a representative of the German government has floated the option of pursuing its own case.
In a letter sent to Montana Gov. Steve Bullock days after the death of 17-year-old Diren Dede, Consul General of the Federal Republic of Germany, Peter Rothen wrote, "...you might find it useful to know that German penal law also applies for crimes committed against German nationals abroad, enabling German state prosecutors to open investigations in such cases."
Here at home, a charge of deliberate homicide has been filed in Missoula District Court against Kaarma for the April 27 killing of Dede, who was trespassing in Kaarma's garage. Court documents indicate Dede and friends had learned about "garage hopping" or "garage shopping" from local friends. His friend, who was with him right before the shooting, said Dede may have been looking for alcohol when he entered the garage.
Elected officials and government investigative agencies are responding to Germany's threat of its own investigation by passing the buck. The governor's office is referring questions to the U.S. Justice Department. The Justice Department suggested to Fox News that state Justice Department officials are in play. The Montana attorney general referred us back to the local district attorney.
When asked if Germany could also pursue a prosecution, Missoula County Deputy County Attorney Andrew Paul, who is prosecuting the case locally, said he is not familiar with German penal law and "German authorities would not have jurisdiction to prosecute a separate criminal case in the state of Montana." The U.S. State Department said it would typically only be involved if the U.S. citizen is overseas, not located in the U.S.
Fox News followed up with the diplomatic office in San Francisco, which represents the German government in Montana and the Pacific Northwest. Consul for Press Affairs Julia Reinhardt said any prosecution originating from Germany would only take place after a judgment in Montana, because they do not want to interfere or even give the appearance of interference. She said authorities in Dede's hometown of Hamburg, Germany, have looked into a legal provision in their criminal code and are prepared to use it, but for now Montana is dealing with the case.
She added they are all looking to Montana and what legal authorities will do. They have full confidence it will be handled in a "speedy and fair way."
Kaarma's partner and mother of his infant son, Janelle Pflager, was home with Kaarma at the time of the shooting. She told police in an interview the family's home had been burglarized two times within three weeks. Unauthorized charges had showed up on credit cards after the burglaries.
Pflager purchased motion sensors for the garage and an extra video monitor was set up to stream a live picture, with a slight delay. Pflager told police a purse with personal belongings was left in the garage, "so that they would take it."
Shortly after midnight on April 27, the motion sensors sent alerts to Pflager's phone. The couple pulled up a live feed of the garage. Pflfager used a phone to take a screenshot of the feed, showing Dede in the garage. The overhead door had been left partially open by approximately 5 ½ feet.
Kaarma, who waived his rights and spoke with detectives hours after the shooting, told them he exited the front door of the house with a shotgun. He positioned himself between the open overhead garage door and his pick-up truck parked in the driveway.
The affidavit says "he was experiencing a rush of adrenaline by the fact there was a subject again inside his garage." After hearing a noise, he "panicked" and thought he had trapped the subject. After deactivating the safety, he fired four times into the darkened garage, hitting Dede with two shots, which proved fatal.
According to the Affidavit for Probable Cause, an employee of Great Clips hair salon called investigators. Felene Sherbondy told a detective Kaarma was in the hair salon days before the shooting. She asked him how he was doing and he said, "I'm just waiting to shoot some f------ kid." The affidavit states he told salon stylists he had been waiting up for three nights with his shotgun. According to the charging documents, as he was about to leave the salon, he said, "And I'm not f------ kidding, you'll see this on the f------ news. I'm going to f------ kill 'em."
Fox News visited the two Great Clips locations in Missoula. At the first, Fox News was informed Sherbondy was working at the other salon. At the second, Fox News was told by a tense employee, "she's on medical leave."
"Markus denies that he lured anyone into his garage,” a statement released from Kaarma's attorney, Paul Ryan of Paul Ryan & Associates, said. “The family's garage door was open for ventilation because Markus and Janelle smoke cigarettes in the garage and had done so minutes before the tragedy. The purse alleged to be 'bait', was actually located in a dark corner of the unlit garage and not visible from the driveway."
Kaarma's defense attorney acknowledged in a conversation with Fox News his client was experiencing some rage issues before the shooting. The legal team, which includes five attorneys, plans to bring in a doctor to make an assessment. The charging documents reference two separate road rage incidents involving Kaarma the day before the shooting. In both instances, witnesses say he was driving slowly in the neighborhood and suddenly swerved left or blocked the road, to keep drivers from passing him. The drivers described him as yelling profanities and gibberish. One said he had foam at the corners of his mouth.
A jar of marijuana was discovered during a search of the home afterward. Investigators obtained a warrant to draw Kaarma's blood while he was in custody to try to determine whether he may have been impaired by "alcohol, dangerous drugs, other drugs, intoxicating substances or a combination of the above..." Paperwork indicated it would be sent to the Montana State crime lab for analysis.
On the day a preliminary hearing was recently scheduled, it was apparent the Missoula neighborhood where Dede died, is in mourning. Black, yellow and red ribbons, the colors of the German flag, were attached to mailboxes of every house on the block where Dede's death occurred. However, ribbons were noticeably absent from the defendant's home.
Around the corner, a German flag was also flying prominently, front and center at the house which once hosted Dede. Efforts to reach the host family by phone, email and in person were unsuccessful -- they are now listed as potential witnesses in the case.
An arraignment in district court for Kaarma is expected in the coming weeks, once a judge is selected. Kaarma's attorney has indicated he plans to plead "not guilty." Deliberate homicide is a felony in Montana and carries punishment ranging from 10 years to life imprisonment without parole. He has posted $30,000 bail.