Start of Pierce double-murder retrial sees jail roommate testify about supposed confession
Michael J. Pierce, right, discusses his defense with attorneys Richard Davies, center, and Bret Roberts, facing away, in Kitsap County Superior Court after Thursday’s opening statements in Pierce’s second murder retrial. — Joe Smillie/Peninsula Daily New
By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News
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“He said, ‘Well they think I’m a monster,’” Bradley L. Reynolds, who was jailed with Pierce in Jefferson County last year, told a Kitsap County jury Thursday.
“I asked him, you know, ‘Why’s that?’” Reynolds continued. “And he said, ‘Well because I killed those two.’ And he looked right at me when he said it.”
Pierce, 38, of Quilcene, is accused of killing Pat and Janice Yarr, for whom he occasionally worked, and then setting their Boulton Road farmhouse on fire to cover up the crime March 18, 2009.
He is being retried after the state Court of Appeals overturned a 2010 conviction in July of last year. Pierce was serving a life sentence for the murders in the state penitentiary in Walla Walla at the time.
The appellate court ruled that early statements made by Pierce to investigators were invalid because his request for an attorney after his arrest was not honored and that Scott Rosenkrans, who was then chief criminal deputy prosecuting attorney, made “inappropriate” statements during Pierce’s trial.
Rosekrans has been elected prosecuting attorney since then.
The retrial in Kitsap County was ordered after a first retrial in Jefferson County was halted because a juror, Laura Meynberg of Port Townsend, revealed that she might have seen Pierce walking by the side of U.S. Highway 101 one evening, though she could not recall the exact date.
Meynberg may take the stand as a witness in this go-round.
Pierce is facing charges for both murders with firearm enhancements on each charge, as well as first-degree robbery and burglary, theft of a firearm, unlawful possession of a firearm and second-degree theft of an access device.
“The state believes all this evidence will show that Michael Pierce killed Pat and Janice Yarr,” Jefferson County Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Chris Ashcraft told the jury in Judge Sally Olsen’s courtroom during his opening arguments in Kitsap County Superior Court.
Pierce’s defense attorney Richard Davies argued to the jury of nine men and seven women that the state’s case rests on shaky circumstantial evidence and the confessions of criminals who cut deals in exchange for their testimony.
“His testimony is bought for,” Davies said, “And it’s bought for with a screaming deal.”
Reynolds, dressed in a white dress shirt and khaki slacks, was the only witness to take the stand Thursday.
He and Pierce had several conversations in the Jefferson County jail, Reynolds testified, saying many were about Pierce’s worries over his case.
“I remember asking, ‘Mike, why you so worried about this? What’s the — you know — what’s the big deal?’” Reynolds said.
“He said, ‘I don’t know if my attorney’s really working for me,’ and just that he was worried about not winning at the trial.”
Reynolds is currently serving a nine-month sentence in Jefferson County after agreeing to plead guilty for failing to register as a sex offender.
He told officers about Pierce’s jailhouse statements after being arrested in May.
Under cross-examination from another of Pierce’s attorneys, Bret Roberts, Reynolds said the charge he pleaded guilty to would have carried a sentence of up to 10 years in prison with three years’ probation. A fourth-degree assault charge from a fight in jail also was dismissed.
Ashcraft then asked Reynolds what he would have to do to fulfill the plea deal.
“Testify to the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth,” Reynolds said.
Davies in his opening statement said the state has no hard evidence linking Pierce to the crime, noting that investigators scoured cars and homes of Pierce and his friends and family, and found nothing from the crime.
“There would have been blood and DNA all over the shooter,” Davies said.
Ashcraft maintained that Pierce’s distinctive hat and coat could not be found, and so he maintained that evidence had been destroyed before investigators searched.
“In every episode of ‘CSI,’ there’s DNA, there’s a fingerprint. In this case, those things don’t show up,” Ashcraft said.
Ashcraft told the jury that witnesses reported seeing a “creepy large man with a textured coat” in the area on the night of the crime.
He also said that security camera footage from Henery Do it Best Hardware in Port Townsend and a Quilcene ATM showed Pierce withdrawing money using the Yarrs’ bank card.
“This is evidence developed 10 or more days after the fact — people just trying to put it together,” Davies said.
He said Pierce was guilty of using the Yarrs’ bank card but not of killing them.
Three Jefferson County sheriff’s deputies stood guard in the Kitsap County courtroom.
Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last modified: February 27. 2014 6:47PM