Evidence is released to defense in Darold Stenson's murder retrial

By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — Evidence was ordered released for examination by Darold R. Stenson's legal team Wednesday as preparations increased for the former Sequim-area resident's double-aggravated-murder trial in Kitsap County beginning Sept. 16.

Clallam County Superior Court Judge S. Brooke Taylor said he wants Stenson, 60, transported Sept. 9 from the Clallam County jail, where he is being held without bail, to Kitsap County for Stenson's estimated four- to six-week trial at the Kitsap County Courthouse in Port Orchard.

At Stenson's next hearing at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Taylor will review the details of transporting Stenson, who is accused of killing his wife, Denise, and business partner, Frank Hoerner, in March 1993.

The state Supreme Court overturned Stenson's 1994 conviction in May 2012.

A stay of execution was handed down in November 2008, eight days before his scheduled execution by lethal injection.

Clallam County Prosecuting Attorney Deb Kelly is seeking a sentence of life in prison at Stenson's retrial.

Jury selection is slated for the week of Sept. 16, with testimony expected to begin Sept. 23.

A bearded, bald Stenson, who sat dressed in a faded red-and-black-striped inmate uniform, joked and smiled with his lawyers during a recess and did not make any statements to the court during the 1-hour hearing.

Jury-selection questionnaires

Taylor said Wednesday he has not yet received jury-selection questionnaires from Stenson's defense team and wants the forms by the court hearing Wednesday.

The bodies of Stenson's wife and Hoerner were found at Stenson's 55 Kane Lane exotic bird farm, which included a two-story house.

Hoerner, 33, was found dead and fully clothed in a first-floor bedroom of Stenson's home, while Denise Stenson, 29, was found naked and bloodied in the upstairs master bedroom, according to court records.

Both had been shot in the head. Denise Stenson died the following day.

The Stensons' children were in the home at the time of the shootings, according to court records.

A .357-caliber revolver was found next to Hoerner's outstretched hand, according to court records.

Stenson claimed Hoerner had shot his wife and committed suicide.

But a police investigation showed Denise Stenson was shot first, then Hoerner was beaten and shot, according to court records.

Taylor released evidence for examination by crime-scene expert Kay Sweeney, a blood-spatter scientist who has become Stenson's defense team's crime-scene evaluator.

File cabinets, clothing

Evidence released by Taylor includes three file cabinets with documents.

It also includes Hoerner's and Darold Stenson's clothing, a .357-caliber revolver, bullets and bullet casings, a .22-caliber rifle, a portion of a headboard, gunshot residue from Hoerner's hands and fingernail clippings removed from Denise Stenson.

“Many of the items they have demanded make no sense,” Kelly told Taylor, comparing the request to spinning a wheel and throwing darts at it.

“What on God's green Earth is looking at fingernail clippings going to tell them?”

There was no evidence of a struggle, Kelly said, adding that the evidence showed that Denise Stenson was shot while sleeping in bed.

Sweeney was approved as a crime scene expert for Stenson on Aug. 16.

The time of the request for evidence and to expand Sweeney's role “was made, frankly, for a tactical advantage,” Kelly said, adding that Stenson's lawyer Roger Hunko of Port Orchard had said he was ready for trial in June.

Taylor said that with about 3 weeks to go before trial, he shared some of Kelly's concerns and noted Stenson's defense team wanted a “truckload of material.”

Stenson's lawyer Sherilyn Peterson of Seattle said Stenson's lawyers “have learned a lot more in our investigation of this case” since earlier this summer.


Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at pgottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: August 21. 2013 7:13PM
Reader Comments
Local Business
Friends to Follow

To register a complaint about a comment, email moderator@peninsuladailynews.com and refer to the article and offending comment, or click here: REPORT ABUSE.

Peninsuladailynews.com comments are subject to the Peninsuladailynews.com User Policy.

From the PDN:

All materials Copyright © 2016 Black Press Ltd./Sound Publishing Inc. • Terms of UsePrivacy PolicyAssociated Press Privacy PolicyAssociated Press Terms of UseContact Us