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Defense assails Arrant's grilling

Accused's lawyer faults trooper, says sergeant led subject of interrogation

Posted: Tuesday, January 31, 2006

One of the men who pleaded guilty to murdering Lauri Waterman told an investigator her 16-year-old daughter knew about the killing, according to a recording played for jurors Monday.

"I know she wanted her dead," Jason Arrant told Craig Police Sgt. Mark Habib five days after Rachelle Waterman's 48-year-old mother was killed in a remote area of Prince of Wales Island. "She told me she wanted her dead."

Arrant and Brian Radel, both 24 at the time of the crime, pleaded guilty last year to first-degree murder in the case. Arrant was scheduled to testify today in the Juneau Superior Court trial for Rachelle Waterman, now 17 and facing adult charges, including first-degree murder and plotting to kill her mother. Friends testified Monday that she had said her mother abused her, though they added they didn't believe her.

At the time of the Nov. 14, 2004, killing, the girl was in Anchorage representing Craig High School in the state volleyball tournament.

Defense attorney Steven Wells didn't question what Arrant said on the recording, but did scrutinize the way Habib questioned Arrant. On the recording, the sergeant is heard telling Arrant that Rachelle Waterman "played" him, though neither Radel nor Arrant had yet implicated the girl.

"It shows what the state is doing by manipulating Mr. Arrant," he told the judge out of the presence of jurors.

Radel previously testified that Arrant said Rachelle wanted her mother killed. He completed his testimony Monday morning, saying he understood from Arrant that Rachelle had told him that fall she changed her mind. He said he didn't know that she had ever said otherwise.

When prosecutor Stephen West asked his witness why he didn't tell investigators that during the investigation, Radel answered that they never asked.

On Friday Radel had testified he went along with Arrant in the killing because Arrant told him Rachelle needed protection from her mother.

Radel also testified Friday he took Lauri Waterman from her bed and later tried to break her neck and suffocate her before she finally died. He and Arrant set fire to her minivan off a Forest Service road, with her body inside.

They had planned to make the death look like the result of a drunken driving accident, until they botched the attempt to break Lauri Waterman's neck, he said.

On the recording, Habib told Arrant that Rachelle Waterman was telling people in school the next day her mother probably got drunk and drove over a cliff.

"I told her alcohol was probably going to be involved," Arrant said on the tape.

Wells focused on Habib's interrogation, in which Habib told Arrant that police knew the girl was involved, "running around fat and happy" and "laughing at school."

"That girl played you guys," Habib said on the recording. "(Investigators) know she had something to do with it. They've seen every phone record. They've seen everybody's computers. ... She's showing no remorse whatsoever."

He told Arrant he only needed confirmation.

Wells asked Habib how investigators could have interviewed Arrant five times and listened to a recorded conversation with Radel - not hearing anything to implicate Waterman - and still told Arrant, "You two have been scammed."

"Essentially, you have your interpretation of her behavior at school," Wells said.

Habib said police had other information implicating Waterman.

Prosecutor West called to the stand several of Rachelle's friends Monday.

Kelly Carlson, who now lives in Ketchikan, talked about Rachelle's online journal, which she titled "My Crappy Life" on LiveJournal.com. West asked Carlson if he knew Rachelle called Craig "Hell, Alaska."

"Anyone who lives in these towns in Southeast Alaska doesn't think very highly of them," Carlson said.

Katrina Nelson, a Craig High School senior and volleyball teammate, said during the volleyball trip, Rachelle borrowed her cell phone four times to make calls on Saturday - the day leading up to the killing. She said she was calling "Red." Nelson said she knew that Arrant has red hair.

Under cross-examination, she said Red was supposed to be downloading movies for the girls to watch when they returned to Craig.

Ian Lendrum, a former boyfriend who also said he had a previous sexual relationship with Rachelle, said he visited her Sunday night and found her upset. At that time, her mother and the family minivan were missing.

Others said Rachelle didn't seem upset during the following week.

"She seemed upbeat sometimes," said Amanda Vosloh, now going to college in Greensboro, N.C.

Stefanie Claus, daughter of Robert Claus, one of the troopers investigating the case, found Rachelle "very normal. She was very calm."

The younger Claus, now attending Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., talked about going out to a bookstore in Craig with several others and then "cruising," ending up at Klawock School, where Arrant worked as a janitor. Rachelle went in to use the rest room and, when she returned, said Arrant had joked with her about having to clean up her mess.

"I was surprised how composed she was," the trooper's daughter said.

• Tony Carroll can be reached at tony.carroll@juneauempire.com.



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