State lays out key evidence, motive in homicide case during first court appearance

The La Crosse man accused of killing his girlfriend made his first court appearance Thurdsay. The criminal complaint details the evidence that allegedly links Erik Sackett to the death of Erin Somvilai, who went by her maiden name, Erin Bushek.

During the court appearance, the state briefly mentioned some of the key points of evidence, opportunity and motive for Sackett to allegedly kill his girlfriend.

Officials began to investigate Erin Somvilai’s disappearance on June 4th. The criminal complaint says when questioning Erik Sackett, he said he last saw her on June 3 at his home.

“He lied to police about the last time he had seen her,” said Susan Donskey, assistant district attorney for La Crosse County.

Sackett’s other girlfriend told law enforcement that Erik had broken up with Erin. He allegedly said later that Erin was going to accuse him of rape, so he went back to her home.

“The defendant was seen at her apartment multiple times just prior to her being reported missing,” Donskey said.

A K-9 used by investigators detected the scent of human remains at her home and in Sackett’s truck.

“The state has video surveillance of the defendant’s truck headed south toward Vernon County. And he has a family cabin on a lake near where the body was found,” Donskey said.

Sackett’s cellphone location was within the general area of that lake. A witness told investigators he saw a truck near the boat landing that same day.

“The defendant is accused of not only killing the victim but also taking her to a remote location, trying to hide her body by weighing it down with concrete blocks and putting her in a lake,” Donskey said.

During the hearing, the state said the alleged motive was that Sackett did not want to go back to prison for his six-year extended supervision sentence.

“If he’s willing to kill to avoid a six-year prison sentence, he’s clearly willing to go to any length to avoid prison,” Donskey said.

Sackett’s defense attorney said most of the details are circumstantial and that there was “faulty forensics” in the investigation.

“It is very speculative that the reason he committed this alleged homicide would be because he wanted to avoid prison. I’m not quite sure where exactly that is coming from,” said Rachel Krueger, Sackett’s defense attorney.

Sackett’s attorney argued for a $10,000 bail, but the judge sided with the state and set bail at $1 million. If he posts bond, he would be required to be on GPS monitoring, remain under house arrest and have no contact with the victim’s family.

His next court appearance is set for next Wednesday.