Opening statements in the trial of Burrell Michael Cushman proceeded today with the defense and prosecution outlining their cases before a 14-panel jury in King County Superior Court in Seattle.
Cushman is accused of strangling his ex-girlfriend, Amy Hargrove, to death on Jan. 5, 2014 in her Kirkland apartment. Cushman is also charged with first-degree attempted arson and violating a no contact order.
The prosecuting attorney, Jeff Dernbach, said that according to the King County Medical Examiners Office autopsy, Hargrove died between 3 and 4 p.m. on Jan. 5.
This is damning evidence, he alleges, because in a police interview Cushman said he left the apartment at 4 p.m.
Cushman’s admission that he was at the house violated a restraining order Hargrove had filed against him in 2013 and he was arrested after the initial interview with Kirkland police, to which he willingly submitted.
Cushman’s defense attorney, John Hicks, argued that the report pegs the time of death at 6 p.m., well after Cushman left for his fathers house and later a friend’s house to spend the night.
It was unclear, based on opening arguments, which time was correct and the issue will likely be a lynch pin of the trial.
The kitchen was also found to be covered in cooking oil, and a burner was left on under a pan filled with oil, which Dernbach said was an attempted arson.
DNA was found under Hargrove’s fingernails which matched Cushman’s. However, Hicks said the test used created a genetic profile based on specific Y chromosomes, or male chromosomes, and alleged that it would also match the couples then 3-year-old son.
Janet Ford, Hargrove’s mother found her daughter on Jan. 6 after she failed to show up for her job at the Olive Garden. Hargrove lived in a mother-in-law apartment attached to Ford’s house.
When Ford went to check on her daughter the front door was unlocked, she said.
She tearfully told the court she found her daughter face-down on her bed and initially thought she was sleeping until noticing her daughter’s fingers were blue.
Hargrove’s sweatshirt was pulled up to around the middle of her chest, leading the prosecution to allege that she was strangled with it.
Ford said she had witnessed Cushman violently punch her daughter before, one time loud enough that she could hear it from her house, which shares a wall.
The prosecution argued that since there were no signs of sexual assault or forced entry the murder was likely done by someone Hargrove knew.
Hicks argued that since both the front and back door were unlocked, it could have been a burglary or sexual assault turned murder.
The jury is comprised of 11 women and three men.
The trial could continue until July 18.