Montana Man Found Guilty Of Deliberate Homicide In "Burglar Trap" Case

I’m only surprised that it took a jury more than a few minutes to reach a guilty verdict.

A Montana man accused of setting a trap for burglars in his garage, and then shooting a German foreign exchange student who entered, was found guilty of deliberate homicide, a jury decided Wednesday.

Markus Hendrick Kaarma, 29, of Missoula, had been burglarized twice in two weeks before the April 27 shooting, and investigators painted him as a man spoiling for confrontation.

Kaarma and his partner, Janelle Pflager, set up surveillance equipment in the garage and left out a purse, with the garage door partially open, as bait.

Kaarma set a trap in an attempt to lure burglars into his garage. Once he saw movement, he opened the door from the house to the garage and sprayed gunfire indiscriminately, saying that he didn’t even see what he was shooting at until Pflager turned on the lights. By then, the exchange student, Diren Dede, was on the ground, dying.

Interviews conducted during the investigation shows clearly that the killing was clearly premeditated.

The investigation took another turn when detectives interviewed witnesses at a local salon who said that Kaarma frightened them with vulgarities and threats of violence, adding that he said before the shooting he had been waiting up for three nights in a row to “seriously kill some … kids.”

“I’m not … kidding, you’ll see this on the …. news,” Kaarma said, one witness recalled to investigators. “I’m going to … kill them.”

* * *

Montana’s “castle doctrine” defines the following parameters for the justifiable use of deadly force.

45-3-103. Use of force in defense of occupied structure. (1) A person is justified in the use of force or threat to use force against another when and to the extent that the person reasonably believes that the use of force is necessary to prevent or terminate the other person’s unlawful entry into or attack upon an occupied structure.

     (2) A person justified in the use of force pursuant to subsection (1) is justified in the use of force likely to cause death or serious bodily harm only if:

     (a) the entry is made or attempted and the person reasonably believes that the force is necessary to prevent an assault upon the person or another then in the occupied structure; or

     (b) the person reasonably believes that the force is necessary to prevent the commission of a forcible felony in the occupied structure.

Note that the there must be a reasonable belief that lethal force is needed to (2)(a) prevent an assault against themselves or another, or (2)(b)  prevent a forcible felony.

Neither (a) nor (b) remotely applied in this instance, which is likely why the jury deliberated for just 8 hours.

There is a clear difference between being forced to defend yourself or someone else against the threat of serious injury or death, and setting a trap to lure someone into a fatal ambush. Markus Kaarma clearly didn’t grasp that difference. He wasn’t in fear for his life. He wanted revenge for his drugs (marijuana) and other petty items being stolen in two previous burglaries.

He did publicly express his premeditated desire to, “seriously kill some … kids.”

Looking at the testimony collected from people who had had run-ins with Kaarma in the weeks before the ambush, he seemed clear violent and unstable, and had almost murdered a landscaper for spraying his lawn for pests before killing Dede.

Was Dede in the wrong for attempting to steal beer from Kaarma’s garage? Absolutely. That isn’t in question, either.

But for Castle doctrine to apply, Kaarma would have had to be in fear for his life, not baiting a trap and staying awake for nights on end in hopes of ambushing and killing another human being.

Kaarma will be sentenced on February, 11, 2015, and faces a sentence of “not less than 10 years and not more than 100.”