‘He’ll come back and kill me.’ | AspenTimes.com

‘He’ll come back and kill me.’

Naomi Havlen
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Heading to court to stnad trial, murder suspect Andrew Kachik is flanked by Pitkin County sheriff's personnel Wednesday afternoon September 25, 2002. Paul Conrad photo.

A woman’s shrill screams of terror filled the district courtroom Wednesday.

The screams were those of Kate Rivers, as she told a 911 operator that she had just seen Andrew Kachik shoot Vincent Thomas to death ? and that she feared she would be his next victim.

“He’ll come back and kill me. Please help me,” Rivers said between sobs and cries of anguish. “I didn’t do anything ? all I did was try to leave him.”

The recording of Rivers’ phone call was the first piece of evidence presented in the first-degree murder trial of Andrew Kachik.

On Wednesday morning a jury was selected to decide if Kachik committed first-degree murder, felony murder, first-degree burglary and attempted murder last Oct. 25.

Since there seems to be no question that Kachik did, in fact, shoot Thomas that night, the defense is apparently focussing its efforts on the question of whether Kachik was provoked into killing Thomas.

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In her opening statement, public defender Jamie Roth characterized the murder as “under heat of passion,” which would make the crime second-degree murder.

The first-degree murder charge that Kachik faces, however, indicates the crime was committed after deliberation.

“The difference between those is mental state, and it’s just as much a part of the crime as the crime itself,” Roth said. “This case is about emotions and passion.”

During opening statements in the trial, attorneys told the court how Kachik and Rivers moved to Colorado from Pennsylvania in early August of 2001, after dating for two years. Assistant District Attorney Lawson Wills said the two moved into a trailer across from the Meredith General Store, where Rivers began working soon after.

The store was operated by Vince Thomas, who was River’s boss and became her close friend, Wills said.

Kachik fathered the youngest of River’s two children, Wills said, and worked in construction when he arrived. The prosecutor characterized the relationship as a “woman ill prepared for two small children and a struggle with a possessive and controlling boyfriend.”

On the morning of October 25, Wills said, Rivers told Kachik she was moving out and taking her children with her. Thomas told Rivers she could move into a large attic room in his house with her two children.

Kachik came home from work at 2:30 p.m., Wills said, to find Rivers’ possessions boxed and ready to be moved. He argued with Rivers, becoming furious and throwing her belongings around.

@ATD Sub heds:”Jealous and worried”

@ATD body copy: Although defense attorney Roth did not dispute the account of what happened on Oct. 25, she characterized Kachik’s actions as from a “jealous and worried” mind-set.

“Andy was devoted to those girls,” Roth said. “They argued [about Rivers’ move] and he went to work, not thinking she’d leave.”

Roth said Kachik was “a jerk” when he kicked Rivers’ belongings that afternoon, but said he pleaded with his girlfriend, cried and promised he’d try to be better while she stayed “emotionless” and “determined to leave.”

When Rivers went next door to the Meredith General Store to place a phone call, both attorneys said, Kachik kicked the door in ? Roth describing it as a “really stupid maneuver.”

Wills told the court that later that evening, after Rivers moved into Thomas’ house, Thomas unexpectedly “came into the shower with her and the two made love.”

Roth said when Kachik drove to the house to talk with Rivers, he saw both her and Thomas in the bathroom, naked and wet, and became overwhelmed by his emotions.

Wills said Kachik entered the house without permission several times, confronting Rivers and then Thomas before finally driving back to his trailer, and retrieving a shotgun and six rounds of ammunition. Wills said Thomas got a handgun of his own after Kachik threatened to kill him during one of the confrontations, but Roth told the court Kachik retrieved his shotgun only after seeing Thomas’ Glock 9 mm.

When Kachik re-entered the house for the fourth time, Wills said, he loaded his shotgun with three rounds of ammunition. Rivers threw a pillow at Kachik, but Kachik shot Thomas three times ? in the chest, the legs and, finally, the head.

Afterwards, said Wills, Kachik told Rivers he was going to kill her, and went back out to his truck for the three remaining rounds of ammunition. Standing outside the house, said Wills, Kachik fired a shot through a plate-glass window as Rivers ran for cover.

Seeing her run into the bathroom, Kachik entered the home, Wills said, and shot twice at the bathroom door. Kachik then entered the bathroom and told Rivers, “You’re a lucky bitch I ran out of bullets or you’d be dead too.”

Rivers’ two children were upstairs in the attic asleep during the shooting. Kachik drove away in his truck, and was arrested shortly thereafter at a road block near Basalt on Frying Pan Road.

@ATD Sub heds:Voices on tape

@ATD body copy: The dispatch tape played in court begins with Pitkin County dispatcher Joan Durner speaking with Thomas on the phone, as he is describing the first confrontation with Kachik at his house.

“Do you know this person?” Durner is heard asking Thomas.

“Yeah ? his name is Andy Kachik,” Thomas says. “He’s in my bedroom now trying to tell me he doesn’t want to fight.”

Thomas puts Kachik on the phone with the dispatcher, and Kachik tells Durner multiple times that he’ll “fight for his girl.”

“I’m not here to start no trouble. I just want to be a part of my child’s life,” he says. “I’m not going to do anything stupid.”

The dispatcher talks to Thomas after Kachik leaves the house. She then transfers the call to Pitkin County Deputy Ann Stephenson, who talks to Thomas on her cell phone while en route to his home. This part of the conversation wasn’t recorded, but Stephenson was the second person to testify for the prosecution.

She told the court Thomas gave her a description of Kachik ? who had left the house temporarily ? and then she heard a brief exchange between the men after Kachik returned to Thomas’ house.

“He said ‘I don’t want to fight you, Andy,'” Stephenson said, saying Thomas sounded like he was trying to be “conciliatory.” She said after a short while Thomas asked her, “If he comes back, can I kill him?”

Stephenson asked Thomas if Kachik had a weapon and while Thomas was asking Rivers if Kachik was armed she said his voice was drowned out by Rivers’ screaming.

“He hit me in the chest,” was the last thing Stephenson said she heard Thomas say.

Public defender James Conway questioned Stephenson, pointing out that at times she did not hear everything that was said in the house.

He suggested she might have missed comments that could have provoked Kachik into the attack ? statements such as “You don’t deserve to have this family,” which Kachik has apparently told his attorneys Thomas said during the confrontation.

[Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is nhavlen@aspentimes.com]