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Home arrow News arrow Local News arrow DEFENSE, STATE LAY OUT CASES IN MURDER TRAIL

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DEFENSE, STATE LAY OUT CASES IN MURDER TRAIL

By Gary Fletcher

Observer Staff Writer

ENTERPRISE The first eight witnesses testified Tuesday in the trial of a Bend woman accused of murdering her husband on the Lostine River in October.

After meeting in chambers with attorneys of both sides, Circuit Court Judge Phillip Mendiguren seated a jury of two men and 10 women with alternates of one man and three women.

In opening statements, both sides agreed that the 39-year-old defendant, Liysa Ann King-Northon, went camping with her 44-year-old husband, Chris Northon, and their 3-year-old son at Shady Campground up the Lostine River Friday, Oct. 6, and that theirs was an unhappy marriage.

Plain, simple self-defense

This is a plain and simple case of self-defense and the defense of a child, defense attorney Pat Birmingham said.

The defendant had every justifiable reason to be in fear for her and the childs life, he said.

Self-defense, using deadly force, is legally justified in only certain instances and this was not one of them, Steven Briggs of the attorney generals office said.

The defendant shot Northon with a .38-caliber revolver while he was asleep in his sleeping bag fully zipped up, Briggs said.

The defendant told people that her husband had been drinking Sunday, Oct. 8, Briggs said, yet the autopsy showed no blood alcohol. What was in the blood were two types of sedatives at the level of more than twice the normal dosage.

After shooting him, she took the time to strap her son in his child seat before driving 17 miles to Lostine, Briggs said. She drove through that town, Wallowa, Elgin, and Milton-Freewater and stopped at her brothers place in Walla Walla about 6 a.m. Monday, Oct. 9.

Then she went to Dayton, Wash. to the home of Joan Monteillu, a friend of 23 years. King-Northons 9-year-old son from a previous marriage was staying there.

Briggs explained that in February 1999 in Hawaii, where the couples had another home, they had been out and had been drinking too much. King-Northon allegedly struck her husband on the nose. He drug her out of the car scraping her knees and bruising her leg, Briggs said.

Each went to a physician for their injuries. A doctor called the police. Chris Northon was arrested, but the charges were dropped.

Before the camping trip, Monteillu, whose friend informed her of the abuse, asked King-Northon why she planned to go camping alone with Northon and their boy. Monteillu heard King-Northon talking on the phone to her airline pilot husband, planning to meet him at the Minam store about 4 p.m.

Friday.

She scouted out the camp site 17 miles up the Lostine River Canyon, where there was no one present, Briggs said.

King-Northon was driving a Ford Explorer; her husband was in a white Suburban. She took a .38- revolver with her that her father bought several months earlier in case her husband attacked her, Briggs said.

About 7 a.m. Monday she arrived at Monteillus house in Dayton. She was wet and said her husband had tried to drown her.

Monteillu said she told her to call the local domestic abuse shelter and hospital.

Columbia County (Wash.) Deputy Kevin Larken responded at the hospital to a domestic violence allegation.

The defendant had a slight black eye, slight shoulder and knee scrapes and no marks on her neck, Larken said.

Larken said King-Northon told him her husband had a history of substance abuse and of abusing her.

King-Northon said she had fired a shot toward her husbands sleeping bag. When asked if the bullet struck him, she said she didnt know, but said she heard a noise like a grunt.

She volunteered to show the revolver in a plastic Zip-Loc bag to Larken, who confiscated it. It had a safety lock on it that prevented it from being fired. He found two spent cartridges in the cylinder and three live cartridges elsewhere in her Explorer.

King-Northon had told different stories about how the second shot was fired, prosecutor Briggs said.

The defendants brother, John T. Dewitt, a chiropractor, and Umatilla County Deputy Dick Bobbitt both said that the defendant looked like shed been beaten when they saw her Oct. 9.

The same day DeWitt called Bobbitt, whom he knew. Later, King-Northon called Bobbitt and turned herself in, Briggs said.

La Grande pathologist Khalil Helou said there was sand on Northons face and chest, where there were also unexplained scratches not thought to be consistent with fingernails.

He had an injured toe and shoulder, the physician explained. His hands were not injured and there was no extra tissue such as skin under his fingernails.

A complete flip-flop, is how the defense described earlier and later descriptions of the trajectory analysis. The initial assumption was that the shot was fired at close range with someone standing over the victim probably with her arm extended down. However, the absence of powder burns on the sleeping bag would be consistent with what the defendant said several times, that she fired from six to eight feet away from the sleeping bag, the defense claimed.

The tarp and pad received were released with the Suburban and were not returned to the police until June 5. After that, the conclusion of the trajectory seemed to have changed from one side to the other of the sleeping pad and from one end to the other, Birmingham said.

A proximity test in the lab was also not done to determine the trajectory, state police forensic lab supervisor Jeff Dovei said.

Was the body moved? Birmingham wondered. Dr. Helou said that a body could relax and slump over.

Why was the scene processed in the dark and the missing Explorer keys and and magnetic Hide-A-Key never found, as well as a knife which the defendant alleged that the deceased pointed at his son saying, Youd better behave or Ill come after you with this. Rain was forecasted, Dovei said.

A history of spousal abuse was painted by Birmingham. The defendant told several women in a prenatal post-partum pool therapy group about it, he said.

The pilots friends were surprised that the late-30s confirmed bachelor married a woman with a child.

Children and home schooling were a priority to King-Northon, while Northon was aloof and liked to do his own thing. He was happiest when alone in the woods, Birmingham said.

There was a clash and violence, the defense attorney said in his opening statement.

Northon appeared drunk on Sunday Oct. 8, Birmingham said. She confronted him that smoking marijuana and popping pills was not appropriate for a pilot.

He became enraged, tackled her in her chair, knocking her into the river where he held her head under water trying to drown her, Birmingham said.

Toe, knee and hand impressions from the ground show proof of a struggle, the defense attorney said.

Their babys cry at the commotion startled them, and she went to comfort the child.

King-Northon found her husband passed out naked on the sand, the defense will claim. She helped him into his sleeping bag, which he had put in the path between the tent and the vehicles.

When she tried to get by him, Birmingham said he jumped up, grabbed her and threatened to kill her.

She went through the woods a different way to the Explorer, retrieved her revolver, jogged past their son and fired a shot at the sleeping bag, the lawyer said.

She drove to Walla Walla where she had grown up and where her brother and other son were, Birmingham said.

The trial is scheduled in Wallowa County Circuit Court through July 27.

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