Murder trial starts in Palmer for man found with body in car

Suspect offered multiple explanations for girlfriend's body

Posted: Wednesday, February 25, 2009

PALMER - A Palmer jury heard opening arguments in the murder trial of a man found with the body of his girlfriend in the back of his car.

Frank Adams is charged in the July 2007 death of Stacey Johnston. Police had chased Adams, a suspected drunk driver, on the Glenn Highway, and discovered her body in the car's hatchback after stopping him.

"The defendant, Frank Adams, brutally beat Stacey Johnston to death," Assistant District Attorney Alison Collins told the jury of eight women and seven men;

"The defendant could not have beat Stacey the way he did without intending to kill her," she said.

Collins told jurors the coroner will say Johnston died of multiple injuries to her brain sustained in the beating or of contusions to the heart, or of both.

She also said Alaska State Troopers found blood on the walls, floor and ceiling at Adams' cabin in Chickaloon.

Collins also told the jury of the four different explanations Adams gave police for Johnston's death: they both had been shot and she died; he put his car into the ditch; they had both been in a plane crash and she died; and she was killed by drug dealers.

"He tells them a frankly unbelievable story. It's not true," defense attorney Scott Sterling told the jury in his opening statement.

He also didn't deny Adams was not a good boyfriend to Johnston. "There hardly seems to be any question that he was abusive," he said.

But Sterling said it doesn't make sense that his client would beat Johnson, and then drive her to Anchorage.

"Frank, according to their theory, assaults Stacey to the point of killing her then decides to take her to Alaska's largest city which is full of police officers," Sterling said.

Instead, he said Adams did not intend to kill her, but saw her die and then panicked.

"Frank Adams, like a lot of people, panicked and didn't know what to do," Sterling said.

Sterling said he will present a witness who will tell the jury Adams said he was taking Johnston to an Anchorage hospital.

Sterling also said evidence will show she could have died from an allergy medication, which was found in her system along with alcohol. He said the that combination can cause a heart arrhythmia, just as contusions can.

Sterling said at the end of the trial, the jury will discover Adams "wasn't even so reckless as to commit manslaughter."

Adams' trial is expected to last three to five weeks.

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