Wisconsin News

Recap: Three weeks of Koula double homicide trial

LA CROSSE, Wis. -- After a full three weeks of testimony, the area's biggest trial of the year will come to a close Monday.

Eric Koula is accused of killing his parents, Dennis and Merna Koula, in their Barre Mills home over money. That was back in May of 2010.

The prosecution and defense will deliver their closing arguments Monday and Eric Koula's future will be placed in the hands of the jury.

From the very beginning, Koula has maintained his innocence, despite heavy grilling from investigators. The jury saw a recording of an interrogation of Koula from July 2010, just before he was arrested for his parents' deaths.

"Look John, I didn't hurt them. I really, I didn't do anything," said Koula.
"I know you wouldn't hurt them," said Department of Criminal Investigation lead investigator John Christopherson.
"I did not," said Koula.
"And that's why you wanted to make sure that they went quickly," said Christopherson.
"I did not do this," said Koula.

Throughout the three weeks of testimony, the prosecution has painted Koula as someone who misled investigators to cover up his own tracks.

They point to a note Koula now admits to planting in his own mailbox reading 'fixed u.'

"You knew you were planting false evidence with the intent to mislead the people who were working to find the person who murdered your parents?" asked prosecutor Gary Freyberg. "That's what it did, yes," said Koula.

Koula said he planted the note because he was worried the police were starting to focus on his teenage son.


The prosecution also argued Koula didn't come clean about the note until police said they knew he was lying -- just like the $50,000 check he'd signed in his father's name, dated the day of the murders and deposited the day after.

The prosecution said Koula was having serious financial problems, and the forged check is evidence he killed his parents over money.

Koula said he got the check the day before his parents were gunned down. He said his family needed to pay off some credit cards and he wasn't sure at the time how much money he was going need. So, his father gave him a blank, unsigned check.

"He tore the check out, and he handed me a check and he said, 'Sign it after you fill it out and let me know," said Koula.

Koula said that was the last time he saw his father before he was murdered.

"I said, 'I love you, Dad.' And he said, 'I love you,'" said Koula.
"Was that the last time you saw him alive?" asked defense attorney Keith Belzer.
"Yeah, it was," said Koula.

The defense argued there is no physical evidence tying Eric Koula to the murder scene. They said the Koulas' deaths may have been a professional hit on the wrong family.

A neighbor of the murdered couple testified he had been receiving death threats over the phone in the months leading up to the murders. The defense also called forensics expert Max Scott to the stand to testify the circumstances of the murders were consistent with a professional hit.

"I think it's an organized scene. I think it was well-planned, rehearsed, with experienced doers who knew how to do this type of thing and, most importantly, not leave any evidence," said Scott.

One of the prosecution's witnesses, Max Scott from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, said not so fast.

"Were any of those [homicide cases] that I've described that you worked -- 0.22 [calibers], shot to the head and no shell casings at the scene -- were any of those professional killings?" asked Freyberg.
"No, they were not," said Scott.

Three weeks of testimony, 12 jurors, one question: Is there enough evidence to convict Eric Koula of killing his parents or will he soon go home to his wife and two kids, a free man again?

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