A few days after Sparki Garlinghouse was killed, a Linn County Sheriff’s Office forensics detective specializing in technology was finally was able to unlock her iPhone. He was startled by what he found.
The Lebanon woman had used a smartphone app to document her own murder, prosecutor Keith Stein told the jury on Wednesday morning during opening statements of the trial of Jason Garlinghouse, her estranged husband.
“Sparki was recording everything, all her interactions,” Stein said.
Stein played the audio recording from the morning of Valentine’s Day 2017, highlighting what sounded like the jingling of keys as Sparki Garlinghouse entered their house — in which he was living — the creak of a door, a cough as she clears her throat, repeated gunshots, a death moan and a body hitting the floor.
After a couple of minutes of mostly silence, Jason Garlinghouse called 9-1-1. “My ex came into my house and attacked me. … I shot her,” he told a dispatcher.
Sparki Garlinghouse, 34, was shot eight times, seven times in the back.
“This case is about a calculated, premeditated, planned murder,” Stein said. “He ambushed her.”
Defense attorney Brett Jaspers said that an enraged Sparki Garlinghouse attacked her spouse and wielded a serrated bread knife, threatening to take his life.
“He chooses self-defense. He chooses preservation,” Jaspers added.
The opening statements came in day two of the trial, which is scheduled for eight days in Linn County Circuit Court. Day one was filled with jury selection.
Jason Garlinghouse, 34, is charged with one count of murder, which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years in prison.
The couple were in the middle of bitter divorce proceedings and a custody battle over their two children.
Jason Garlinghouse was furious his wife was living with and dating a friend of his, Stein said.
Stein added that when she went over to their house in the 900 block of Osprey Way to drop off backpacks and snacks for their two children before school, she recorded her morning interactions, and her phone included about a dozen of those recordings.
“Sparki was terrified of going in the house when the defendant was there,” Stein said.
He added that Jason Garlinghouse was furious that she would find ways to see the children when it wasn’t her custody week, and he was mad she was at the house.
He was often at work in the mornings, however, so she would chat with the kids and with Jason Garlinghouse’s father, who was watching over the children, Stein said. If her estranged husband was home, she often would meet the children on the sidewalk.
On the day of the shooting, Jason Garlinghouse had suggested that he, his new girlfriend and the kids go to McDonald’s for breakfast to celebrate Valentine’s Day. At the last moment, he said he was sick, texted in sick to work, and had the trio go without him to the fast food restaurant, Stein said.
He had also switched automobiles with his father, and Sparki Garlinghouse didn’t suspect that her husband was inside their house, according to Stein. “Sparki assumed the coast is clear,” Stein said.
Sparki Garlinghouse was found clutching two backpacks in her left hand, and a bread knife rested in her right hand, according to police reports.
On the 911 call, Jason Garlinghouse said he didn’t know why his wife was in the house, but he guessed that she thought she was going to get the children ready for school.
The day before he shot Sparki Garlinghouse, Jason Garlinghouse told a coworker, “Out of everybody — out of all the people in the world — she’s the one that deserves to die,” Stein said. He added that coworkers overheard Garlinghouse say several times, “She deserves to die.”
He also asked a Hispanic worker if he knew any gang members, according to the prosecution. The co-worker, considering this racist, played along and asked him what he needed, Stein said, and Jason Garlinghouse responded by complaining about his wife.
During the defense’s opening statements, Jaspers said that Sparki Garlinghouse was a violent and explosive personality and a “ticking time bomb.” She had previously broken her husband’s nose by throwing an object at him, and quit a nursing job because of an accusation that she hit an elderly patient, he added.
And she was furious at Jason Garlinghouse because he was dating one of her friends, Jaspers said. The woman had served as the maid of honor at the Garlinghouses’ wedding.
Sparki Garlinghouse also was upset that her spouse had been given 50 percent custody of the children, Jaspers said. He added that when she came to the house on Feb. 14, 2017, she asked where the children were, and went “through the roof” when she found out Jason Garlinghouse’s girlfriend had taken them to breakfast.
Jaspers said that she then grabbed the bread knife off the kitchen island.
“He acted appropriately and he acted in self-defense,” Jaspers said.