Killers' stories contradict each other

Second murderer testifies against victim's daughter in conspiracy case

Posted: Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Rachelle Waterman's biggest problem with her mother's murder was that the killers destroyed the family's Plymouth Voyager, one of the men who has pleaded guilty to murder in the case testified Tuesday.

"She expressed disappointment she wouldn't be inheriting the minivan," Jason Arrant said, shackled at his hands and feet and wearing orange jail garb.

The defense charged his testimony was self-serving and asked why jurors should believe him. Arrant's testimony also conflicted with that of other witnesses.

Waterman is standing trial on murder and conspiracy charges in the Nov. 14, 2004, death of her 48-year old mother, Lauri Waterman.

The now-17-year-old defendant, accused of plotting with the killers, was in Anchorage the weekend of the slaying, representing Craig High School at the state volleyball tournament. Her father was in Juneau that weekend, and her older brother was away at college.

Friday and Monday, Brian Radel, the other man who has agreed to plead guilty to first-degree murder, testified that he took Lauri Waterman from her bed, drove her to a remote place with Arrant and killed her with his bare hands before the two burned her in the family minivan.

Both Arrant and Radel, who have not been sentenced, were 24 at the time of the killing and their arrests less than a week later in Craig, a community of about 1,100 some 200 miles south of Juneau.

On cross-examination, defense attorney Steven Wells accused Arrant of testifying to what prosecutors want to hear to minimize his prison sentence. Wells' cross-examination was scheduled to continue this morning.

Prosecutor Stephen West asked Arrant why he and Radel killed Lauri Waterman.

"To protect Rachelle," Arrant said.

"From?" West asked.

"From her mother," Arrant said.

"From?" West asked.

"From physical and mental abuse."

"That was the abuse Rachelle described to you?" West asked.

"Yes," Arrant said.

Wells asked Arrant why he believed Rachelle Waterman was being abused, when her teenage friends didn't believe her stories.

Arrant, a Klawock school janitor and Rachelle's ex-boyfriend, said that when he and Rachelle became sexually involved, he asked her about bruises on her body.

Wells said Arrant knew the defendant was on the volleyball team and active in sports. Wells pointed to transcripts from an interview with police before his arrest. Arrant said he wasn't sure whether to disbelieve Rachelle Waterman when she said her parents wanted to sell her into slavery.

He asked Arrant if he had any experience with girls when he was growing up.

"I guess I never paid them any attention," Arrant answered.

"I guess that's why Rachelle was your first girlfriend," Wells said.

Arrant said he called Waterman after she returned home late on the day of the murder. He told her "it had been done" and asked her to "wipe down the house."

She pretended to cry uncontrollably at school the day after she and her father returned home to discover her mother missing, Arrant testified. He said that gave her an excuse to call him, so he could come and see her. "She said, 'I told you I was a good actress.'"

Arrant said he knew a plea agreement could get him out of prison about 17 years after his arrest, even if he is sentenced to the plea agreement cap of 50 years. Wells showed that for murder, conspiracy, kidnapping, burglary, vehicle theft and tampering with physical evidence - all charges Rachelle Waterman faces - Arrant could have been sentenced to 300 years on conviction.

Radel faces a cap of 99 years in prison, and there were conflicts between what the two killers said.

Radel said Arrant sent him to Craig High School in September to shoot Lauri Waterman after she dropped off her daughter at volleyball practice. Radel said he didn't know if he could have gone through with it, but that he didn't because he had not brought a screw he needed for his .30-.30 rifle.

Radel said Arrant told him later that Rachelle Waterman had changed her mind and no longer wanted her mother killed. He said Arrant never again told him the girl wanted her mother dead - only that Arrant said they had to carry out the killing to protect her life.

Arrant said Rachelle Waterman called off the "hunting trip" - as he said they referred to "the grassy knoll scenario" in correspondence read for the jury - because she didn't want to be so close to the killing to be implicated. He said the plan to kill Lauri Waterman was never called off.

Arrant said there were no other "close" incidents.

Radel testified to another incident, in which Arrant dropped him off to kill Lauri Waterman at her home, but he called it off when he saw there were volleyball teammates at the house. He said he didn't want any "collateral damage."

Radel, who graphically detailed his actions in the murder, said he agreed to kill Lauri Waterman after Arrant convinced him Rachelle Waterman's life was in danger. He said Arrant told him when and where it would be done.

Arrant testified Tuesday that the method and the time were decided by Radel, who he said didn't need convincing.

Although Radel testified that Arrant helped try to suffocate Lauri Waterman in the end, Arrant said he never touched her.

Arrant said he threw up while Radel was trying to kill her.

Arrant said his sexual relationship with Rachelle Waterman began in August and continued until the arrest. But Radel said Arrant told him it began earlier in the year, after his own sexual relationship with the girl had ended.

The defendant turned 16 on Aug. 26, 2004. Wells said in his opening statement last week that his client had broken off the relationship about that time.

Arrant did say that in July he requested that Rachelle Waterman send him naked pictures of herself. He specified poses, and she complied, he said. Judge Patricia Collins denied West's motion to introduce those pictures as evidence.

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