Prosecution could wrap up case today against homicide suspect | AspenTimes.com

Prosecution could wrap up case today against homicide suspect

Naomi Havlen
Aspen Times Staff Writer

The prosecution anticipates wrapping up its case against alleged murderer Andrew Kachik today.

Twelve witnesses have testified in the first-degree murder case, and prosecutors have displayed crime scene photos, audio recordings from dispatchers and the murder weapon: a pump-action shotgun. The trial began last Wednesday.

Kachik’s former girlfriend, Kate Rivers, spent the majority of Friday on the witness stand, tearfully recounting the events of Oct. 25, 2001. She talked about the moments before and after Kachik allegedly shot and killed Thomasville resident Vincent Thomas, and shot three times at her.

On his 29th birthday, Kachik spent the day at the defense table in a three-piece suit, sobbing sporadically as Rivers detailed his actions almost a year ago. Kachik is charged with first-degree murder, but his attorneys argue he is guilty of second-degree murder, saying the crime occurred in the heat of passion rather than with deliberation.

“I’ve never seen him look that bad before,” Rivers said of Kachik while he was loading a shotgun to fire at Thomas. “I think he was crazy at that point, yes. He was not the Andy that I had known.”

Rivers said she asked Kachik not to kill her, but he “walked through” her like she wasn’t there. But Rivers did tell Assistant District Attorney Lawson Wills that after killing Thomas, Kachik said that she was next to die, indicating that he did realize she was in the house.

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“Is it your opinion that Andrew Kachik deliberately killed Vince Thomas?” Wills asked Rivers.

“Yes, that’s my opinion,” she said.

But on cross examination, public defender Jamie Roth determined that Rivers “didn’t mean anything about [Kachik’s] mental state” when she gave her opinion about the word “deliberately.”

Rivers choked back tears and sometimes covered her face with her hands as she described how Kachik entered Thomas’ house five times that night, finally bringing his shotgun into the residence. The courtroom grew silent, and Thomas’ family members wept softly as Wills pumped the shotgun with a loud clacking sound.

“Andrew took steps toward the stove and turned and shot,” Rivers said in a soft, shaking voice. “I was screaming. I was freaking out. I remember one shot, then two. It was all boom, boom, boom.”

Kachik’s head was down, and his shoulders shook as he cried while listening to River’s testimony.

Kachik and Rivers moved to the tiny community of Meredith up the Fryingpan River Valley in August 2001 with their baby daughter and Rivers’ young daughter from a previous relationship. Rivers took a part-time job at the Meredith Store, located next door to the trailer she and Kachik lived in.

Thomas managed the Meredith Store and was a volunteer firefighter. He encouraged Kachik and Rivers to get involved in the local fire district, an offer that Kachik rejected, but Rivers was enthusiastic about, she said.

Her involvement with Thomas made Kachik jealous, she said, although she only considered Thomas a friend and confidant. The night before the murder Rivers said she went to a fire district meeting, which upset Kachik.

The next morning she arranged to move herself and her children into Thomas’ residence two miles away in Thomasville, saying she didn’t think Kachik thought she was serious about moving.

Rivers also read aloud a letter she had written to Kachik the morning of the killing, describing why she was moving out.

“I tried my best for you, and my best just wasn’t good enough,” she read. “Our fighting will harm our children if it hasn’t already. This separation is definitely for the best. Goodbye and good luck.”

Rivers said she wasn’t sure whether Kachik had read the letter. Soon after taking it from her, she said he kissed her daughters goodbye, telling her he was leaving to get “smashed.”

Additional testimony on Friday came from Thomas’ close friend, Jason Juliak. He had helped Rivers move that afternoon, and said he told Thomas he was concerned about Kachik after seeing how the defendant had smashed in the door of the Meredith Store earlier that day during an argument with Rivers.

Betty Lou Neilsen, owner of the Meredith Store, testified that she found the door to her store broken in, and property manager William Anderson appeared in court to testify he saw Rivers moving out of the trailer in Meredith where the couple lived. He said he saw Kachik just after the defendant kicked a box of Rivers’ things over.

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