WORTHINGTON — Notable testimony Tuesday in the third day of the Christopher Kruse murder trial came from Kruse's daughter, Bailey Kruse, and her boyfriend, Jeremy Majerus.
Also Tuesday, Kruse presented a stipulation that he agrees to two facts: that Janette Pigman-Kruse is deceased, and that her death occurred on Aug. 19, 2015 in Nobles County.
This formal legal acknowledgment means that now the prosecution does not have to prove either of those aspects of the crime. The state still has to provide evidence that Pigman-Kruse's death was caused by Kruse's actions, that Kruse intended to kill Pigman-Kruse and that his actions were premeditated. Without proving all three of these beyond a reasonable doubt, the state cannot convict Kruse of first-degree murder.
In Bailey Kruse's testimony Tuesday, she confirmed her previous statements that she distinctly heard two gunshots on the morning of Aug. 19, 2015. She is hard of hearing and doesn't wear her hearing aids to bed; she also reported being a heavy sleeper. She insisted, though, that there were definitely two shots, with only enough time between them to pump a shotgun.
"A gunshot is pretty loud," she said. "You'd have to be on the other side of town to not hear it."
Bailey then said she recalled her dad yelling and swearing, her mom moaning and her dad's feet hitting the floor — although she wasn't sure of the order of occurrence.
Beyond those facts, she was unable to remember many of the specific questions the prosecutors asked her. She was in shock at the time of the shooting, she stated, and five years have passed since her mother's death.
Answering the attorneys' questions was clearly discouraging for Bailey, who answered with frustration as she was asked to recall details such as how many times her dad came downstairs and what time she texted her mom.
Beyond the pressure to remember things from five years ago, Bailey also had to relive the night of her mother's death.
"I don't talk to people about this," Kruse said at one point. "It's a nightmare I can't wake up from."
During Majerus's testimony, he was asked to recall statements Bailey had made to him leading up to Pigman-Kruse's death and during the investigation.
This line of questioning prompted a cautionary instruction from Fifth Judicial District Judge Terry Vajgrt to the jury. He explained to the jury — made up of six women and nine men — that Majerus's testimony of things said to him by Bailey are admitted not as evidence itself, but as an evaluation of the truth of Bailey's previous testimony.
Prosecutors had asked Bailey whether, prior to Pigman-Kruse's death, her parents had been fighting "like never before," and whether she had heard them use the word "divorce." She said in her testimony that she was 15 at the time and wouldn't have been aware of any marital problems her parents may or may not have had.
Bailey was also asked to recall a moment shared with her dad near the beginning of the investigation. Both were in the garage waiting for police to direct them, when Kruse said to Bailey, "You know your mom died." Prosecutors asked Kruse whether or not she had described her dad's tone of voice in that moment as "cold." She said she couldn't remember for sure, but didn't think she would have said that.
Majerus was asked the same questions. He remembered Bailey having told him that her parents were fighting "like never before" and talking about divorce. He also said that when Bailey told him about what happened with her dad in the garage, she did say her dad's voice was "cold." Majerus added that Bailey had asked him not to share any of this information with the police because "she just didn't want her dad looking really bad," but he told police anyway.
The defense noted that Majerus — who lives about 20 miles away in Sioux Valley Township — had lied to police on three separate occasions and told them he had not driven to Brewster in the early morning of Aug. 19, 2015 when he, in fact, had. He answered that when he was first questioned, he didn't know Pigman-Kruse had died or what was being investigated. He was afraid that the police were after him for spending time with Bailey (they weren't dating then) because he was 19 and she was 15.
Other evidence presented included financial information about the Kruses' attempt to purchase the Spider Lake Resort and records of text messages exchanged between Majerus and Bailey Kruse. Testimony continues Wednesday.