Video shows teen saying she knew of plans to kill her mother

Posted: Friday, February 03, 2006

Five days after her mother's 2004 death, Rachelle Waterman told investigators she knew that the murder could occur on the weekend she was away playing volleyball, according to a videotape of her interrogation that jurors saw Thursday.

"I had an idea it was going to happen," the then-16-year-old Craig girl said, before dropping her head to the table and crying near the end of one of two two-hour taped interrogations played during her Juneau Superior Court trial on murder and conspiracy charges.

She said that when the suggestion from a friend to kill her mother came up earlier in the year, "I said, yes, let's do it." She also said on the tape that she had wanted to know the plans but didn't talk about them in advance.

She said the friend, Jason Arrant, suggested the killing after she told him of an incident of abuse by her mother, 48-year-old Lauri Waterman.

Arrant and Brian Radel testified for the prosecution earlier in the trial. The men, both 24 at the time of the killing, agreed last year to plead guilty to single charges of first-degree murder in Lauri Waterman's slaying in a remote area of Prince of Wales Island on Nov. 24, 2004.

Radel methodically described how he kidnapped Lauri Waterman from bed in her Craig home and drove her in the Watermans' minivan to a remote spot on the island. After meeting up with Arrant, Radel killed her with his bare hands and burned her body in the vehicle. He said he never talked to Rachelle Waterman about killing her mother, but understood from Arrant that her life was in danger from her mother's abuse.

When investigator Sgt. Randy McPherron of the Alaska State Troopers on the video referred to Radel as a "psycho," Rachelle Waterman agreed. She told him that was why she broke off her relationship with him early in the year. They had one sexual encounter, which she described as "fooling around," short of genital intercourse, she said.

During the interrogation she counted five occasions when she had oral sex with Arrant, though she said her relationship with him was ending by that August.

Additional charges against Radel and Arrant have been dropped and they await sentencing in March. Rachelle Waterman faces charges of both first- and second-degree murder, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, kidnapping, vehicle theft, burglary and tampering with physical evidence.

In Judge Patricia Collins' instructions to jurors last week, she said they could find the girl guilty of crimes committed while she was away in Anchorage at the state volleyball tournament if they determine she was an accomplice. But mere knowledge that the crime would take place would not constitute conspiracy, the judge said.

The black-and-white taped image of the girl crying in an oversized white hooded sweatshirt was the last that jurors will see of her until Monday, when the trial is scheduled to resume. McPherron, who played the two videos for jurors, will finish Monday as the state's last witness, prosecutor Stephen West said.

Defense attorney Steven Wells said he plans to call two witnesses when he begins his case Monday. They include Marty Beyers, a Washington, D.C.-based child psychologist, who will testify about the girl's statements to police. Beyers also testified last summer in Wells' unsuccessful motion to keep the videos from being shown to jurors.

Wells said he doesn't know whether his client will testify, but he also plans to call Carl "Doc" Waterman, husband to the victim and father to the now-17-year-old defendant.

"He's going to hate me," Rachelle Waterman said of her father on the video, before she was left alone in the interview room. "I don't know that I can stand the thought of my dad hating me. I already had one parent hate me."

McPherron questioned the extent of the abuse Rachelle Waterman alleged she received from her mother. She went on to say that when her mother hit her in the legs with a baseball bat, it was only hard enough to leave a small bruise. An incident in which she said her mother tried to push her down the stairs also was less severe than she had made it sound, she agreed.

The interview began with McPherron and Craig Police Sgt. Mark Habib asking her to tell the truth about what she knew about her mother's death.

"I told them not to do it," she said in tears, later in the interrogation. "I told them not to do it. I was scared. ... Why do you ask me questions if you don't believe me?"

McPherron said on the tape that investigators knew about an aborted plot in which Radel had gone to Craig High School to shoot Lauri Waterman after she dropped her daughter off at volleyball practice in September. She responded that she had found out about that plot from Arrant and told him to stop it.

Radel has testified that he set out to kill the woman on that occasion because Arrant told him Rachelle Waterman's life was in danger. It didn't happen, because he forgot a screw for the stock of his rifle. But he didn't know if he could have gone through with it, he added in court this week.

Arrant testified that the defendant called off the assassination because she didn't want to be close enough to be implicated.

"They gave you up so quickly, I couldn't believe it," McPherron said to Rachelle Waterman on the video.

"They offered and I said no," Rachelle Waterman said. "I said I loved her and things were getting better. I had mentioned (having Lauri Waterman killed), but I wasn't serious."

She later said she didn't believe they would have "the balls" to do it.

Some of the troopers' claims of evidence during the interrogation conflicted with trial testimony.

McPherron said on the video that troopers knew Rachelle Waterman had told Arrant she would be gone the weekend of the killing and that her father would be in Juneau. With her older brother in college, that would leave her mother alone. Arrant and Radel reported that she told them it would be a good time to kill her mother, and about a window that would be left open for them, McPherron said.

Rachelle Waterman said on the video that she had mentioned sneaking out from a window in the family room.

Radel testified that Arrant never told him which window she sneaked out of, and Arrant failed to identify it during his testimony. Radel got into the house through a garage window before breaking into the main house.

While fanning through a stack of papers during the interrogation, McPherron told Rachelle Waterman that investigators had found copies of e-mail and chat messages on her computer. At trial, though, investigators testified they found only one e-mail and no chat messages on the hard drive.

"We know Brian did the killing, Jason assisted and you showed them how to get in the house," McPherron said in the taped interview.

When McPherron told her there was a big difference between the person who plans a killing and one who chokes the life out of someone, she covered her face and dropped it to the table.

"I want my mom back," she said.

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