Kruse murder trial: Witness testimony wraps up

Matthew Noedel
Matthew Noedel measures the approximate width of Kruse's head as he shares his opinion about forensic evidence found at the scene. (Leah Ward/The Globe)

WORTHINGTON — After the prosecution rested its case Tuesday, the defense attorneys for Christopher Kruse were able to call a handful of witnesses before also resting.

The bulk of the day's testimony came from Matthew Noedel, a privately contracted forensic scientist hired by the defense in July 2019 to offer a second opinion on firearm and crime scene analysis.

Noedel explained that he requested that crime scene evidence be sent to his lab in Washington State, but was told he would have to come to the law enforcement center personally to view the relevant exhibits. Since the microscope he uses to evaluate firearms and ammunition can't travel, Noedel made silicon castings of the evidence shotgun shells found at the scene of the crime.

After comparing the castings from the evidence shells against those from Lisa Kinsella's four test fires, Noedel reached the conclusion of "inconclusive" — meaning the Remington 870 recovered from Kruse's shop may have fired the evidence shells, but it may not have.

Noedel also noted some areas of Kinsella's report where he believed she made mistakes. For example, Kinsella wrote that the firing pin impressions on the evidence shells didn't match those from the test fires. She came to her conclusion based on other factors that agreed, but Noedel said that firing pin impressions are the principal consideration in determining a conclusion.


He also pointed out that because the extractor of a Remington 870 is always at the three o'clock position on the firearm, extractor marks must be compared at that same orientation. However, in order to line up extractors marks on the evidence shells with the test fired shells, Kinsella rotated one of them to the ten o'clock position.

Noedel additionally commented on the BCA crime scene team's findings. By the time two peoples' mass compresses the mattress, he said, the trajectory of the missed first shot may have missed both people in the bed.

In cross-examination, the prosecution noted that Noedel looked at a slew of investigative reports and other evidence from the case prior to doing his own examination. By Noedel's own admission, it is standard practice to know as little about a case as possible, so as to avoid inherent bias.

The state's questioning also revealed that Noedel's conclusion was not verified by anyone, nor was a technical review completed on his report.

Noedel confirmed that an examination on the physical evidence itself, rather than a casting, would have been preferable, conceding that he made a mistake in casting and let in air bubbles in the area over the firing pin impression.

The defense also asked Pigman-Kruse's parents, Mary Jean and Terry Pigman, to testify.

Mary Jean Pigman said that when Kruse called to tell them about their daughter's death, he was emotional and difficult to understand on the phone. In the week following the murder, Kruse was "grieving, torn up, disturbed," she added.

She also testified that Kruse and Pigman-Kruse had a great relationship, and that Pigman-Kruse had been just as excited about buying a resort as her husband.


The prosecution wanted to know if Pigman would be surprised to hear that although Kruse said his wife was dead right after she was shot, the medical examiner had estimated that Pigman-Kruse was probably alive for three to five minutes before bleeding out. Pigman, a nurse who has worked in nursing homes, said no. She is familiar with the process of death and affirmed that "it was a fatal shot. Nothing was going to help.

"(Kruse) said he could see death in her eyes," Pigman added.

When Kruse's father-in-law took the stand, he explained that he has known Kruse for more than 20 years. He said that Kruse has a reputation in the community for being honest and dependable.

For its last witness, the defense re-called daughter Bailey Kruse to the witness stand. The attorneys asked her to recall details about her mother's funeral arrangements. Some of Pigman-Kruse's ashes were spread at Spider Lake in "the spot with the best sunsets and moons," Bailey said, and the rest are in a display case in Kruse's home. She added that her dad has kept all of her mom's personal belongings.

Christopher Kruse acknowledged to the court that he is aware of his constitutional right to testify on his own behalf and had chosen not to testify.

The prosecution and the defense will give their closing arguments Wednesday morning, after which the jury will deliberate before reaching a verdict.

< Day 7: Interviews, grand jury testimony

Day 9: Closing arguments >

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