Wisconsin News

Koula Trial: Opening Statements and Testimony

LA CROSSE, Wis. -- Prosecutors and defense attorneys are laying out their cases in the trial of a West Salem man accused of killing his parents over money.

Eric Koula faces two counts of first-degree intentional homicide for the May 2010 shooting deaths of Dennis and Merna at their home in the town of Barre.

La Crosse County District Attorney Tim Gruenke began Tuesday by calling Koula a "man of secrets," secrets he kept family and close friends. Gruenke says Koula lost $600,000 given to him by his parents, and that he was struggling financially.

Gruenke also showed jurors pictures of Dennis and Merna Koula's bodies. Koula's sister walked out of the courtroom when the pictures were shown.

Attorney Jame Koby says Dennis and Merna Koula's deaths were the work of a professional hit, and that the defense has evidence to support this claim.

Koby also says they have an eyewitness who will testify they saw Dennis and Merna Koula outside their home at around 8:00 p.m. May 21, 2012, more than two hours after investigators say the couple was killed.


15 jurors, seven men and eight women, are hearing the case. The group briefly toured the Koula residence Tuesday afternoon before returning to the La Crosse County Courthouse to hear the first witnesses in the case.

86 witnesses are expected to be called during the trial, which is scheduled through the end of June.

In the opening statements the prosecution said police reported there were no signs of forced entry in the home. They said there were no windows or doors that seemed to be tampered with.

Audery Grout, a good friend of Dennis and Merna then took the stand. She said she and her husband had been to the Koula house many times before to visit.

Attorneys showed her pictures of the crime scene as well as an old report of what she told police to see if she noticed anything missing or out of place.

She said the report contained information she doesn't remember giving to police.

"Ok, I don't recall saying that the shades would be open," Grout said. "No because I dont remember saying that."

Grout's husband, Dave Grout, took the stand after her.

Both the prosecution and defense turned their focus to the collection of valuable gold coins Dennis had.

In the opening statements this morning, the prosecution said Koula told police his dad never told or showed anyone about his collection but to him.

Koula also told police his dad said he was thinking of selling the coins.

Police reported they did find some gold coins when searching the home, but Koula said those were not the coins he was talking about.

Grout's husband says he and Dennis talked about trading and finances as well as gold coins, but he never knew for sure if Dennis owned any.

The defense is trying to prove Koula had a close relationship, especially when it came to finances.
"I sure certainly don't remember it," said Dave Grout. "Gold coins are certainly impressive so I think I would have remembered."

Currently the jury is not being sequestered, but Judge Horne ended today's session saying that could be an option.

He reminded jurors not to talk to anyone about the case and that includes through social media.
Court will pick up again Wednesday morning.

Koula has pleaded not guilty to the charges. He faces life in prison if convicted.

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