Forster: It was kill or be killed

Investigator who interviewed defendant testifies in murder trial

Posted: Wednesday, June 01, 2005

An Alaska State Trooper investigator, testifying in the murder trial of David Forster on Tuesday, told jurors Forster said he felt if he didn't kill Kenai Police Officer John Watson, Watson was going to kill him.

Forster, 35, is accused of murdering Watson on Christmas 2003 in the driveway of Forster's residence on Watergate Way in the Kenai VIP Subdivision.

Sgt. Dane Gilmore, who interviewed Forster at Wildwood Pretrial Facility, where he was being held following the incident, said Forster told him:

"I reached out and grabbed the gun. I thought if I don't shoot him, he's gonna shoot me.

"I felt that hunting instinct, 'cause if I don't kill him, he's gonna kill me."

Gilmore said Forster told him the first shot was an accident and he shot the second time out of fear.

Earlier witnesses testifying in the trial, which began May 23, have said Watson was sent to check on the welfare of an 18-year-old female, later identified as Forster's fiancee, Crystal Hallman.

Forster and Watson struggled in the driveway, Forster allegedly shot Watson in the back with Watson's .45-caliber semi-automatic pistol and then shot him in the back of the head, killing him.

A four-hour standoff with police ensued, during which Hallman fled the house to safety. Forster later surrendered and was taken into custody.

According to Gilmore, Forster had called the investigator to the jail because he wanted to talk to him about what happened.

As Gilmore read from a transcript in court Tuesday, he said Forster, at one point, said Watson had his weapon drawn, he had a can of pepper spray out and he had his handcuffs in his hand.

When Gilmore asked him how it was possible Watson had three items out when he only had two hands, Forster's reply was that everything happened quickly.

Gilmore said Forster told him he did not think the first shot was good enough because the officer was still struggling.

"The defendant said, 'That's where I should've dropped the gun and just run in the house. I'm so sorry,'" Gilmore said.

Jurors on Tuesday also heard from Tyland VanLier, a fellow fishing guide and friend of Forster's, who was asked by police to help try talking Forster out of his residence following the shooting.

Kenai District Attorney June Stein asked VanLier if he had heard Forster talking about stress prior to the Christmas Day shooting.

The defense has argued that Forster was not in a sound mental state immediately preceding the incident.

"He said he was stuck on a platform ... and stuff with him and his dad and Crystal, but they were going to get married anyway," VanLier said.

During Gilmore's testimony, Gilmore said Forster talked about "being down" because of financial troubles and because he could not take Hallman to meet his family.

Gilmore said Forster told him his mother and father had "grudges" about things in Hallman's past, and they did not want her to come visit them for Christmas.

VanLier said he received a phone call from Hallman who was at the Kenai Police station, where she had been taken after she fled from Forster's house.

She asked if VanLier would pick her up, and she told him what had happened.

He did so and took her to his home. Hallman stayed with VanLier and his wife for a time following the incident, he said.

A few minutes after VanLier and Hallman arrived at VanLier's home, he got a call from police requesting his assistance at the Forster standoff.

Stein asked VanLier if he tried to talk to Forster when he eventually exited his house.

"I just remember looking into the (police) car at him," VanLier said.

"There was no response from him. Just staring," he said.

During cross examination, Anchorage defense attorney John Murtagh asked VanLier if he recalled saying during an interview with Sgt. Sonny Saballa, "That wasn't Dave."

VanLier said he remembered saying that.

"You said you saw someone completely different that night?" asked Murtagh.

"Yeah," VanLier said.

Stein asked VanLier to clarify his meaning.

"When you said you never saw him act that way, you meant violent?" she asked.

"Yes Ma'am," VanLier said.

Jurors on Tuesday also heard testimony from Alaska Scientific Crime Detection Laboratory criminalists regarding testing of evidence gathered at the crime scene, and viewed a video of the interior of Forster's house, which included scenes of a scope-mounted rifle lying on the living room floor near the fireplace.

Before Tuesday's proceedings got under way, Judge Donald Hopwood called Juror No. 10 into the courtroom and dismissed him for sleeping and nodding off numerous times during the trial last week.

For this trial, four alternates were seated in addition to the required 12 jurors.

Testimony is scheduled to resume at 8:30 a.m. today, when the state expects to rest its case.



CONTACT US

  • Switchboard: 907-283-7551
  • Circulation and Delivery: 907-283-3584
  • Newsroom Fax: 907-283-3299
  • Business Fax: 907-283-3299
  • Accounts Receivable: 907-335-1257
  • View the Staff Directory
  • or Send feedback

ADVERTISING

SUBSCRIBER SERVICES

SOCIAL NETWORKING

MORRIS ALASKA NEWS