The first day of Christopher Strawn’s trial for murder ended with jurors listening to the recording of Tiffany Albertson’s 911 call after her friend, Brandon Cook, was shot and killed.
Strawn, 33, is accused of shooting Cook “execution style” on Oct. 20, 2015, as he helped Albertson paint the kitchen in her trailer in Kodzoff Acres Mobile Home Park on Mendenhall Loop Road.
An obviously terrified Albertson spent agonizing minutes crouched in an open closet in her gutted trailer, waiting for the police to get there as dispatcher Erika Johnson strove to keep her safe and calm.
“My friend is dead,” Albertson repeated several times in the initial seconds of the 911 call, asking Johnson to hurry and send law enforcement.
Albertson first told Johnson she didn’t know the suspect, then told her he had a shotgun and she was not sure if he had left the trailer. Later in the conversation, she identified the shooter as “Chris Strong.”
Albertson remained in hiding, crying and telling Johnson she was scared and didn’t want to die, until officers arrived and secured the trailer, according to the phone call.
When Juneau police officers finally made contact with Albertson, she could be heard crying hysterically.
“Get me out of here,” she sobbed.
Police found Cook dead on the kitchen floor with a gunshot wound to the back of his neck and head.
Assistant District Attorney Amy Paige led jurors through the chain of events the night of Cook’s murder during her opening statements in Juneau Superior Court Wednesday afternoon.
Paige characterized the relationship between Albertson and Cook as friends, saying that Albertson said she was as close to Cook as a brother.
Albertson was renovating the trailer, which she had just purchased, and had hired Strawn to help her. The night of the shooting, Albertson had gone to Safeway to help Cook jump-start his truck and then he followed her to the trailer to help with some painting, Paige said.
Strawn was already at the trailer working and, according to Paige, was behaving strangely and seemed anxious.
“They had a strange discussion about God,” the prosecutor said, explaining that the discussion was prompted by a motivational sign Strawn found in the trailer.
“He began asking them about their thoughts on God,” Paige said. “Did they believe in God, did they go to church. He wanted to know, were they godly people.”
Strawn left the trailer several times, Paige said, and continued to act “very bizarrely.”
The third time he left, Paige said, Albertson was in the kitchen with Cook, who was washing the paint sprayer in the sink.
“The radio was playing,” Paige said, setting the scene.
According to Paige, Albertson heard Strawn say, “F— it, there is no God,” before he shot Cook at close range in the back of the head.
“She turned and saw her friend fall to the ground dead,” Paige said, adding that she then saw Strawn raise his hand to his head and ask, “What did I do?” while holding the shotgun in his other hand. Strawn then told Albertson, “Don’t worry, I don’t have to kill you too,” and walked out the door.
“There was no question in her mind that Strawn had killed Brandon,” Paige said.
Paige said that Strawn walked home through a “bog,” or greenbelt, between Albertson’s trailer park and his own trailer. His wet and muddy clothes were found, she said, but the murder weapon never was recovered.
Investigators did find two pieces of sawed-off buttstock in his home, as well as multiple 12-gauge shotgun shells, Paige said, adding that the buttstock and shells were consistent with evidence found at the scene of the shooting.
“We may never find the shotgun that ended Brandon Cook’s life, but we know who did — Christopher Strawn,” she said.
Assistant Public Defender Eve Soutiere, however, told the jury Strawn was supposed to be at the trailer, because he was working for Albertson, removing trash and fixing items such as the furnace.
That evening, Strawn worked at the trailer, then walked home. He learned of Cook’s murder the next day, when the police came to his house, Soutiere said.
Police investigators “immediately zeroed in on him as only suspect, to the exclusion of other suspects,” she said.
Soutiere sought to suggest that Strawn might not even have been aware of the buttstocks and shotgun shells in his trailer, calling him a dumpster diver who frequently scavenged items he hoped to re-sell, showing the jury photos of the inside and outside of his trailer and adding, “He has a lot of stuff in his house.”
The state’s version of facts differs from the defense in “the most important fact — we believe you will find (Strawn) not guilty,” Soutiere concluded.
Strawn is facing charges of first-degree and second-degree murder, manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, third-degree assault and weapons misconduct. His trial, with Judge Philip Pallenberg presiding, resumes at 8:30 a.m. Thursday.
• Reporter Liz Kellar can be reached at 523-2246 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.