A prosecutor told jurors Tuesday they will hear evidence that David Henkleman stabbed an unarmed Casey Heath 13 times as Heath tried to flee the smoking patio of McCoy's Tavern in downtown Olympia on a rainy night in December last year.
"Mr. Heath didn't respond, he didn't punch back," Thurston County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney James Powers said during his opening statement in Henkleman's murder trial. "He simply is there as a target."
Henkleman, 35, is charged with second-degree murder in connection with Heath's homicide, along with first-degree assault and second-degree assault for allegedly stabbing two men who came to Heath's aid at McCoy's on Dec. 4.
Henkleman's defense attorney, Sunni Ko, asked jurors to put aside their feelings of sympathy as they hear witness testimony of what happened the night Heath died. She told jurors that there is "no dispute" that Henkleman is the man responsible for Heath's death.
"There will be no dispute about the manner of his death," she said. "There will be no dispute about how he died, there will be no dispute about the man who is responsible for the death of Casey Heath and no dispute that his death is a tragedy."
Outside court Tuesday, Ko confirmed that she will not contest that Henkleman is guilty of second-degree murder - but she said he is innocent of the first-degree and second-degree assault charges because she claims Henkleman acted in self-defense.
Ko said that if Henkleman is found guilty of the assaults, it could add between 10 and 15 years to an approximate 20-year prison sentence Henkleman faces if he is found guilty of murder.
Olympia police were dispatched to McCoy's in the 400 block of Fourth Avenue E. downtown about 1:30 a.m. on Dec. 4 on a report of a stabbing. Responding police intercepted Henkleman coming out of an alleyway on State Avenue after he was chased from the bar by several patrons.
Olympia officers tased Henkleman as he held a knife to his own throat during a brief confrontation before placing him into custody. Henkleman sobbed after his arrest, Powers said, but he claimed to "have no recollection of the events in question," court papers state. Henkleman's knife was taken into evidence.
Heath, 32, was an expert skateboarder who competed in events locally and nationally before his death. In mid-December, bout 400 people packed the Olympia Ballroom for a memorial in Heath's honor.
During Powers' opening statement, he said there is no evidence that Heath even knew Henkleman before their encounter at McCoy's on Dec. 4. He said that after Henkleman entered the bar, he ordered a drink and walked out to the patio, where he sat down at a table where Heath was already located.
Heath was taking a break on the smoking patio after playing pool inside with his two friends, the other two men who were stabbed that night, Powers said. During a very brief encounter, Henkleman and Heath exchanged words at the table, Powers added.
Then Heath suddenly jumped to his feet and attempted to leave, running to the door "as fast as he can," Powers said.
Heath never got to the door, according to Powers. "That quickly, the defendant was on him," Powers told the jury. Witnesses in the bar will testify that they saw Henkleman repeatedly make quick thrusts to Heath's chest, he added. The witnesses did not see Henkleman's knife, and said they thought the thrusts were soft punches.
Three of Heath's stab wounds resulted in his death, Powers said, one that punctured a lung, and two that struck his aorta, causing massive internal bleeding.
Heath's friends suffered their stab wounds after they came to Heath's aid and tried to pull Henkleman off of Heath after Heath had collapsed to the ground, Powers said.
During Ko's opening statement, she focused on the two men who will testify that Henkleman stabbed them. Ko told the jury that she will dispute that the two men suffered "great bodily harm" during their alleged assaults. A trial brief filed by Ko suggests that Henkleman acted in self-defense in stabbing those two men after they struck him, and that their wounds were superficial.
Ko did not ask the jury to find her client innocent of the charge of second-degree murder, and her trial brief filed in advance of the trial raises no defense to the charge.
Henkleman's trial is expected to last at least two weeks.
Jeremy Pawloski: 360-754-5445 firstname.lastname@example.org