Judge grants motions in La Crosse County homicide case

A La Crosse man charged with killing his girlfriend appeared in court Friday. Erik Sackett, 38, is accused of killing Erin Somvilai, 35.

Somvilai was first reported missing in early June last year after family members were unable to contact her.

Through conversations with Sackett and others, investigators found he had not been truthful about when and where he last saw her. According to the criminal complaint, evidence found at his home, cellphone records and a possible motive connect him to the crime.

Somvilai’s body was found in a Vernon County lake last summer.

There were several motions that went before the judge all involving evidence that could be presented in this case. A motion to suppress search and dental records was withdrawn by the defense.

Judge Elliott Levine granted a motion to suppress conversations between workers with the Department of Corrections and police officers June 17 and August 8.

One of the main issues debated in court centered around a conversation between a La Crosse police officer and Sackett at his home. Attorneys presented arguments about a conversation recorded on a body camera between Sackett and officers when Somvilai was still missing.

The defense argued that where the conversation happened at his home, a no trespassing sign and being told to stop after learning the conversation was being recorded means the video should be suppressed. The attorney also argued his rights were violated because there wasn’t a warrant and was not read his rights.

“I don’t think there was anything unclear whatsoever about the conversation here. That Mr. Sackett said he was done talking. He has that right, whether or not it is custodial. Once he has invoked that right, the conversation is supposed to end,” said Chris Zachar, Sackett’s defense attorney.

The prosecution argued this was a normal conversation and was not a criminal matter, so Sackett did not need to have his rights read to him. And, it was not entirely clear what Sackett was referring to when he said the conversation was done.

Levine said Sackett did go inside the home and returned to talk to the officers so he could leave at any time. Officers were never directly told to leave.

“I don’t think it’s a question of whether it rises to a level of an assertion, clear assertion, is that his intention to assert his Fifth amendment right– I don’t think the evidence supports that at all. In fact, I think it was just a desire not to be recorded,” Levine said.

The judge denied the motion to suppress the conversation, which was recorded on the body cameras, so that can be presented to the court.

Sackett’s next hearing is scheduled for later next month.

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