ANCHORAGE — Rachelle Waterman’s lawyer sent jurors off Wednesday with his own set of instructions for evaluating the evidence in the murder conspiracy trial: Question a former boyfriend’s statements to police that would connect her to her mother’s brutal murder.
Lawyer Steven Wells asked jurors if it was more likely that a 16-year-old with usual mother-daughter struggles would conspire to murder her mother with two men she had been sexually involved with, or that an overweight, sexually inexperienced overweight man living in his mother’s basement would kill to remove the one person that he believed stood in the way of his relationship with the teen.
Lauri Waterman was killed in November 2004 after being taken from her home in Craig. Arrant and Brian Radel pleaded guilty in the case and are in prison.
Rachelle Waterman, now 22, is being tried for the second time after her 2006 trial ended in a hung jury. The jury began deliberating Wednesday afternoon.
“There is nothing to suggest the hatred she would have to kill her mother,” Wells said, as the evidence phase of the 13-day trial ended. “The plan was between Jason and Brian to get rid of Lauri so Jason would have unfettered access to Rachelle.”
He pointed to a letter from Lauri Waterman found in Rachelle’s nightstand as proof that she did not want her mother dead. The letter begins with, “My dearest daughter,” and goes on to apologize for tensions between the two. The mother says she wishes her daughter could understand how much she’s loved.
Prosecutor Jean Seaton turned the jury’s attention to statements Waterman made to get Arrant and Radel to get them worked up enough to kill for her. She told Arrant, who then told Radel, that her mother beat her with a baseball bat, tried to push her down the stairs and told her she was fat and withheld food, according to the prosecution.
These were cruel, vindictive lies about a person who actually was a beloved member of the community, Seaton said.
“There is the proof of her dislike of her mother,” she said.
The 48-year-old woman was killed after Radel sneaked into the Waterman home and kidnapped her in what was to look like a drunken driving accident. The woman was forced to drink nearly a bottle of wine and tied up and put in the back of her minivan. Once out of town, Radel tried to kill her by breaking her neck and repeatedly smashing a flashlight against her neck. When that didn’t work, he suffocated her.
Because Lauri Waterman’s injuries were inconsistent with a drunken driving death, Radel and Arrant burned the minivan with the body inside at the end of a logging road on Prince of Wales Island.
Wells described Arrant as a snitch intent on trying to salvage what was left of his own life by telling police what they wanted to hear. Arrant told police the girl wanted her mother killed and knew a plan was in the works the weekend she was at a volleyball tournament in Anchorage and her father was in Juneau, leaving Lauri Waterman alone in the home.
Wells said troopers squeezed statements out of the 16-year-old until they heard what they wanted.
According to prosecutors, Waterman disliked her mother and the feeling intensified when she became a rebellious teenager and began smoking, drinking and sneaking out at night. She matured early and became sexually active and had several boyfriends, including the two 24-year-old men.
Radel introduced Waterman to Arrant when their relationship didn’t work out. But Lauri Waterman objected to the age difference and didn’t want her daughter dating Arrant.
Seaton said the teen resented her mother’s control over her and used the false stories of abuse to manipulate the situation. While she didn’t know the details of the plot to kill her mother, she knew the men planned to carry out the plan that weekend, the prosecutor said.
“This wasn’t just a juvenile fantasy. It wasn’t just joking around,” Seaton said. “Our words and deeds have consequences. In this case, the words and deeds of Ms. Waterman had terrible consequences.”
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