Jury hears Hester’s account

Posted: Wednesday, January 18, 2006

An audio recording played in the murder trial of a Kasilof woman in a Kenai courtroom on Thursday revealed more details into what may have happened in the events leading up to the shooting death of a Kasilof man more than two years ago.

In the recording, Sgt. Barry Wilson of Alaska State Troopers questions Betsy M. Hester at the scene of the crime and as he drives her to a trooper post in Soldotna. After being read her Miranda rights for a second time, Hester is heard explaining how the victim, her boyfriend, had slapped her, hit her and threatened more violence before she shot him.

“He slapped me a couple of times and he hit me a couple of times,” Hester told Wilson in the recording.

According to Hester, her boyfriend then walked from the living room where he had been hitting her to the kitchen where he handled a knife and threatened more abuse.

“He turned around and said he was going to come over and teach me a lesson,” Hester said. “I don’t think he was going to stab me with the knife ... I think he was just going to beat me.”

Hester, 53, is charged with one count of second-degree murder for allegedly killing John E. Clark, 49, of Kasilof, on Oct. 4, 2003, in the mobile home they lived in together.

Wilson, who testified in court Tuesday, said his interview with Hester, recorded shortly after Clark’s death, focused on the actions that occurred, and that the scent of alcohol on Hester became obvious after they entered the trooper’s vehicle.

However, Wilson said Hester did not appear to be too drunk or incoherent to make a knowing waver of her Miranda rights and described the defendant as having appeared shocked, but stoic.

Wilson said he did not notice any injuries or other signs of abuse while questioning Hester, but noted that the interview was conducted under dim lighting.

A witness who had Hester and Clark over for dinner the night before the shooting, Virginia Sundvik of Kasilof, also testified Tuesday.

Clark and Sundvik were friends, and Clark had been spending the day with Sundvik’s husband working on cars Oct. 3, Sundvik said. Later that same day, Hester came to Sundvik’s house with a pizza, and Sundvik, her husband, Clark and Hester sat down to dinner and a couple of drinks, Sundvik said.

Everyone appeared to be jovial, and Hester and Clark displayed no signs of anger before they left about 8 p.m., Sundvik said.

However, Clark had been suffering from serious health problems prior to his death, and Sundvik had noticed changes in his attitude toward Hester since his health began to falter, she said.

“He was touchy,” Sundvik said. “She’d say something in jest and he’d bite at her.”

She said Clark was generally upbeat, though, full of vigor, and Sundvik had never seen him act violently toward Hester.

From Sundvik’s house, Clark and Hester reportedly went to the Decanter Inn, where they had more drinks before returning home.

In the recording played Tuesday, Hester told Wilson she had approximately three drinks and stopped drinking before they returned home, but that Clark continued to drink after they left the bar.

Hester made the 911 call reporting the shooting at 1:47 a.m. Oct. 4, and investigators later determined her blood-alcohol level was .156 and Clark’s was .231 — nearly four times the the level considered to be legally intoxicated in Alaska.

Hester’s blood alcohol level, however, was not taken until 4:20 or 4:40 a.m. and likely was higher when she called 911, according to an expert witness who testified last Thursday.

In the recording, Hester also described what happened when she shot Clark.

“‘He said, ‘God Betsy, you just shot me’ ... and that was pretty much it,” she said.

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