Defense begins case in Kirkland quadruple-murder trial
By KEVIN OPSAHL
Kirkland Reporter Contributor
March 18, 2010 · Updated 2:14 PM
Defense attorneys launched their proceedings on March 16 for a Kirkland man who is on trial for murder, forgoing their opening statement and bringing in witness number one. It was the second time the defense declined to give an opening statement.
Attorneys Pete Connick and James Conroy are trying to convince a jury that Bellevue native Conner Schierman, 28, had found himself covered in blood in a master bedroom of a Kirkland home amongst the dead after an alcoholic blackout in July 2006. He is accused of killing Olga Milkin, 28, of Kirkland; her sons, 5 and 3; and her sister, Lyubov Botvina, 24, who were stabbed multiple times before their bodies were drenched with gasoline and their home was set on fire.
If convicted of aggravated first-degree murder and arson, Schierman could be given the death penalty.
The first defense witness was Peter Gray, a former Kirkland Police Department Search and Rescue Explorer who was assigned to go to the Milkin home at the time of the incident. Gray said he didn’t find anything that linked Schierman to murder in a “randomized search” of the crime scene.
“My job was to take a visual snapshot, if you will, of what I saw,” Gray said.
Gray said he was responsible for searching the Milkin’s yard after the incident. He looked for evidence through several large bushes on the south side of the home.
Previously, Kirkland firefighters, who responded to several reports of a fire at the Milkin house the morning after the killings, said they crawled through the smoldering home and found the bodies of Olga and Lyubov in an upstairs bedroom propped against a bed. They also found the two boys at the top of the stairs, lying just feet from their mother.
Olga’s husband, Leonid Milkin and his family stayed during the morning prosecution arguments Tuesday, when King County Deputy Prosecutor Scott O’Toole interviewed Kim Duddy, a forensic scientist who was part of the investigation. A woman in the courtroom cried into her hands when listening to Duddy describe the "extreme" multiple stab wounds to the victims' neck, back and head.
Some family members of the victims left after lunch when Connick cross-examined Duddy.
“It was very hard for us,” Milkin told the Reporter later. “We were just horrified to hear what happened and what really went down … I have no idea what the defense is going to say. I’ve been sitting there for two months and I concur with the prosecutor’s findings.”
Milkin, who was serving with the National Guard in Iraq at the time of the killings, spoke extensively to the Reporter in January on life after the slayings.
Conroy has not commented on why there was no opening statement.
“It is very unusual not to have an opening statement, but it is their right,” said O’ Toole.
Throughout the week, Conroy will have police and forensic experts on the stand.
The trial is expected to continue through March.
The Reporter will give updates as this story progresses.