First-degree murder trial goes to Benton County jury

Attorney: DNA points to David Miller as killer

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By Trish Mahaffey, The Gazette

VINTON — Benton County Attorney David Thompson told a jury he couldn’t tell them everything that happened during a struggle between David Miller and Sabrina Hustad Janish on Oct. 25, 2015, but Janish ended up dead and the only DNA at the scene was from the two of them.

Thompson delivered his closing argument Monday in the first-degree murder trial of Miller, 32, who is accused of strangling and stabbing Janish, 25, his girlfriend, at his home and then stealing two trucks in his attempt to escape. Miller also faces two counts of second-degree theft.

The prosecution rested in the morning following four days of testimony, and the defense rested without putting on any witnesses.

The Benton County jury started deliberating about 3:45 p.m. on Monday, but left for the day at 4:30 p.m. They are to resume deliberations at 9 a.m. Tuesday in Benton County District Court.

Thompson, in his closing argument, said there is no mistake that a struggle and attack took place in the living room area of Miller’s mobile home at 3257 59th Street Trail, north of Shellsburg. Furniture was knocked over and there also was a large amount of blood in center of the sofa, where the stabbing likely started and then continued on the floor, where a knife was found in a pool of blood.

The blood in the living room was Janish’s and her blood was found on Miller’s clothing and boots, Thompson said. Janish’s body was found face down by the front steps of the mobile home and there was blood spatter on a van and truck parked near those steps, which was from Miller and Janish, he added.

A medical examiner said Janish was stabbed multiple times in the face, neck and torso, and two of the stab wounds were so deep that they severed the esophagus and trachea, Thompson pointed out. She was also strangled but the medical examiner couldn’t say if the strangulation happened first or after the stabbing.

“There’s no way the wounds are accidental,” Thompson said showing the autopsy photo of Janish to the jury. “She also had defensive wounds to her hands.”

Thompson said her time of death could be narrowed down to when Miller allegedly stole the first of two trucks between 3:40 and 3:45 a.m. Oct. 25 in an attempt to escape. Janish’s body wasn’t found until closer to noon that day, he added.

The stolen truck was from one of Miller’s neighbors, who told police he saw Miller stealing the truck and noticed his left arm was bloody, Thompson said.

Miller crashed that truck into some construction equipment about 1.5 miles from his home and then stole another truck in his attempt to get away from the area, Thompson said. Miller then ran that truck into a ditch area at the Pleasant Creek Recreational area, he added.

Both trucks had Miller’s blood in them, Thompson noted.

Aaron Hawbaker, Miller’s lawyer, told the jury evidence isn’t “guesses or assumptions” and the theories or conclusions the state lays out for them should give them “pause” because it’s not proof beyond reasonable doubt.

Hawbaker said the state can’t say when Janish died and there’s no evidence to explain the killing.

“There’s no motive ... no why,” Hawbaker said. “There’s no proof Miller was in the home when the (assault) happened.”

Hawbaker said this was a violent attack on Janish and there would be more blood on Miller and he would have left a trail leading outside when he left but there wasn’t. There was no transfer of blood on Miller from Janish, he said.

Janish left her estranged husband two days before and she was happy, Hawbaker pointed out.

“There’s no evidence that shows malice toward Janish,” he said.

Hawbaker also argued Miller had a bad plan of escape if he committed murder and he asked the jurors to go back and listen to his interview with police when he tells them he was taken hostage by masked men playing “war” and shooting each other.

He said Miller’s “ramblings” to police are “delusional” and he seems “drug induced.”

Hawbaker also argued police assumed Miller was the killer from the start and never looked for any other possible suspects.

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