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Prosecution rests, defense takes over in Koula trial

LA CROSSE, Wis. -- Thursday was day nine in the trial of Eric Koula, the West Salem man accused of killing his parents in their home in Barre Mills back in May 2010. Thursday afternoon, it's the defense's turn to make its case.

Thursday's focus was on money and whether or not it was a motive for Koula to kill his parents, as he is charged with doing.

The prosecution says it was, but the defense is trying to argue that Koula was well-off and financially stable.

The prosecution's financial expert was the last to take the stand for the state Thursday morning for cross-examination.

The defense tried to show Koula was making the majority of his credit card and mortgage payments on time and sometimes in advance.

The prosecution said if Koula was so financially stable, he should not have had any trouble with the IRS.


"Does that settlement agreement that was signed indicate that Eric was receiving some money from the bankruptcy?" asked Tim Gruenke, the La Crosse County district attorney.

"Right," replied Mary Jo Werner, the prosecution's financial expert. "Eric Koula signed an agreement with a bankruptcy trustee agreeing to $33,406 for the Traveler's account."

To further prove their point, the prosecution also pointed out the IRS sent Koula a letter saying there were deficiencies in his 2009 tax returns.

When the defense took over the trial Thursday afternoon, they brought in their own financial expert to the stand.

This expert took information from the prosecution's financial expert, as well as information from Koula, to do her analysis of his financial status.

The defense's financial expert said Koula was making his credit card and mortgage payments on time, and come May 2010, around the time his parents were killed, he was financially stable.

"What does that tell us about where Eric and Christine were on May 21 of 2010?" asked James Koby, the defense attorney.

"Well, they had enough funds available to pay their payments that were coming up within the next month, approximately," said Debra K. Thompson, the defense's financial expert.

The defense also touched on the letter from the IRS indicating Koula had deficiencies in his tax return, and they argued Koula hired a third-party company to negotiate with the IRS, and the negotiations were still taking place during the time his parents were killed.

Also to take the stand Thursday afternoon was an investment manager.

He looked at data from the Option's Express account from October 2008 to July 2010. This is the same account Koula used for day trading.

The investment manager said during that time, he had 44 profitable trades and just eight unprofitable trades. It's a record he said was pretty good.

"The standard that is often used is that if you're right, if you make good picks or choices or trades 60 percent of the time, you're doing well, and his profitable to not-profitable trades, I would say were substantially more than 60 percent of the time," said Glen Johnson, the investment manager. "So I would say his record was quite good."

Week two of the trial is set to wrap up tomorrow. The entire trial is expected to go until late June. If convicted, he could face life in prison.

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