Jurors heard opening statements Wednesday morning in the trial of an Olympia man accused of pouring lighter fluid on his wife and igniting it, causing the woman to suffer second-degree burns to her legs, court papers state.
Duane Michael Rader, 35, is charged in Thurston County Superior Court with attempted first-degree murder, first-degree arson, felony harassment, unlawful imprisonment, tampering with a witness and two counts of fourth-degree assault.
Rader, who is an Army soldier, has pleaded guilty to three counts of violation of a pretrial domestic violence no-contact order in connection with the case.
During opening statements, Rader’s attorney, Robert Jimerson, told the jury that the alleged victim changed her story after the initial incident occurred Feb. 13, 2011, at the home she shared with Rader on 12th Court Southeast in Olympia. She initially told investigators that she was burned as a result of an accident, Jimerson said.
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
“It is not until August of last year that (the woman) contacted law enforcement and changed her story,” Jimerson told the jury. Jimerson added that the jury should not trust the woman’s testimony, and at the conclusion of the trial, they should return a not-guilty verdict.
According to court papers, the woman suffered second-degree burns to her legs and was admitted to Madigan Army Medical Center for five days after the February 2011 incident. She initially told detectives that she had “accidentally lit herself on fire,” court papers state.
But she separated from Rader in August, and then told a Thurston County sheriff’s deputy that she had earlier given “a false statement to police to protect the defendant from losing his military career,” court papers state.
Thurston County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Craig Juris told the jury Wednesday that Rader’s statement to medical personnel at the time of the incident was that he had accidentally caused the fire. However, the physical evidence gathered by detectives after the woman was burned does not match Rader’s story, Juris said.
Juris told the jury that the couple met over the Internet in August 2010 and began a “whirlwind romance that turned into a nightmare” for the young woman. Juris said the evidence will show that after the couple was married, Rader became increasingly controlling and would not allow her to see her friends or drive around town without his permission.
The behavior escalated, Juris said. On the day of the incident, Rader was intoxicated at their home and told the woman, “I have a bullet for your head,” Juris said. When the woman tried to leave with her young daughter, Juris said, Rader slammed the woman’s head onto the kitchen counter as she tried to reach for her purse. Juris said Rader then poured lighter fluid on the woman’s legs and lit his lighter, telling her, “you are evil and need to die.”
Rader initially would not let the woman call 911, but relented after realizing the seriousness of her injury, Juris said.
Juris told the jury that they will hear a recording of a phone call that Rader made to the woman from the Thurston County Jail, during which he told her that “I’m sorry for hurting you but remember, between you and me, it’s still an accident.”
According to court papers, Rader has a criminal history in the Army that includes two arrests on suspicion of larceny, one in 1998 and the other in 2002, and one arrest in 1999 for alleged possession of a controlled substance, court papers state.
A spokesman at Joint Base Lewis-McChord confirmed Wednesday that Rader is active duty military.
Rader’s wife is expected to testify in court today.
Jeremy Pawloski: 360-754-5445 email@example.com