Golden – Kenneth H. Botham Jr. “succeeded in one goal – he killed his wife and three other people,” Mesa County District Attorney Terrance Farina said today in his opening statement at Botham’s retrial on four counts of murder.
“But he failed to avoid detection. The bodies came up,” Farina said. The district attorney was referring to the fact that the bodies of Patricia Botham and the Botham’s neighbors, Linda Miracle and her two sons, Chad and Troy, were found floating in the Gunnison River late in 1975.
Norman Mueller, one of Botham’s attorneys, countered by saying in his opening statement, “It is impossible for Ken to have committed these crimes. Evidence will establish they (victims) disappeared before midnight and died before midnight. He was in Ouray, he couldn’t have done it.”
Expert testimony and color slides of the murder site and the victims were expected to take up most of today’s trial time after opening statements.
Botham was convicted of the crimes in 1976 in Grand Junction, but the Colorado Supreme Court ordered a new trial in the summer of 1981, citing among other factors, pretrial publicity and community sentiment.
In Golden, defense and prosecution attorneys met with District Judge Winston Wolvington shortly before the trial started to iron out problems concerning two of the jurors. Wolvington said one problem – that of a juror whose driver’s license will expire while sequestered with the jury – will be worked out. The second problem involved an alternate juror who said he had financial problems and had learned he was not going to be paid for the estimated two weeks of the trial. The attorneys and the judge decided the juror would have to serve.
Before the trial, Botham declined to comment about the case, saying, “I’m not allowed to.” Mueller told a reporter, “I think you’ll be able to talk to him in about two weeks.”
Farina’s opening statement lasted about one-half hour. He said testimony would show Botham was familiar with the area near Bridgeport on the Gunnison River where the bodies were found weighted with railroad iron and tied with wire.
Farina said the two women had been asphyxiated and the boys had each been shot in the head with one bullet. Farina said the wounds were “through and through,” meaning that they entered and exited the skull. He said the slugs were not recovered, but that experts had determined they were fired from a .22-caliber weapon. He said a Western-style .22 caliber gun, which could not be identified as the murder weapon, was found in a crawl space under the Botham house on Christmas Day 1975, about six weeks after Botham was arrested.
Farina also told the jury that hairs and blood matching those of the victims had been found on the bridge over the Gunnison River at Bridgeport. He said minute quantities of human blood including the type A which belonged to three victims were found in Botham’s car. He said markings on portions of the wire with which the bodies were bound had been cut by a tool belonging to Botham. He said there was no evidence to show Botham had been in Ouray later than 10:30 p.m. Aug. 22, 1975, and contended that he had time to drive to Grand Junction and kill the four victims sometime after 1 a.m.
Before the trial Lee Foreman, the other court-appointed defense attorney, said he wanted to be sure witnesses testifying for a second time do not mention testifying at the earlier trial.
Foreman said he was afraid mentioning a previous trial could prejudice the jury. He also said he plans to refer to those proceedings in attempts to discredit the witnesses.
The jury of nine men, three women and two alternates will be sequestered throughout the trial, but will be allowed to talk on the phone to their families on personal matters. They also will be allowed to watch television, except newscasts.
Wolvington said he planned to allow them to attend a movie Sunday, the only day the trial will not be held. He said he will allow them not more than two drinks before dinner at their own expense but once deliberations on the verdict begin they will not be allowed to drink.
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