Hargrove case goes to jury
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Hargrove case goes to jury

It’s in the jury’s hands now.

Attorneys for both sides in the William Hargrove murder trial made their closing arguments in Benton County Circuit Court on Thursday, wrapping up just before 4 p.m.

After receiving their final instructions from Judge Matthew Donohue, the seven-man, five-woman jury decided to go home for the night and start fresh in the morning.

The jurors will begin deliberating at 9 a.m. Friday and keep going until they’ve reached a decision.

Hargrove, 30, is accused of murder in the death of his fiancée, Anna Repkina. The 27-year-old Russian woman was found dead at the end of a logging road outside Alsea on April 17, 2017, killed by a single shotgun blast to the head. Hargrove is also charged with identity theft and two counts of second-degree theft for allegedly using Repkina’s bank card to take money out of her account after she was dead.

Prosecutors claim Hargrove killed Repkina to please the other woman in his life, Michelle Chavez, 37, who wanted Repkina out of the way.

The defense insists Hargrove is innocent and that it was Chavez who pulled the trigger, murdering her rival so she could have Hargrove for herself.

Amie Matusko, the senior deputy district attorney for Benton County, addressed the jury for nearly three hours on Thursday as she summed up the massive amount of evidence presented by the state over the course of the four-week trial.

She used a number of visual aids, including a large piece of posterboard depicting a timeline of events and a video monitor that displayed photos as well as text to drive home key aspects of the case. Also on prominent display was the shotgun that is believed to be the murder weapon.

In painstaking detail, Matusko went over all the evidence she said points to Hargrove’s guilt.

That included a Dutch Bros. cup, a fast food receipt and other garbage found at the crime scene; cell tower location data that placed his phone in the vicinity at the time Repkina is believed to have been killed; surveillance video that shows his Nissan Xterra coming and going between Corvallis and Alsea and footage that shows him inside the Alsea Mercantile with what appear to be dark spots on his head; a 12-gauge pump shotgun with his fingerprint on it that was found inside his vehicle, along with some spent and unspent shells; and several articles of clothing with blood on them.

Matusko also reminded the jury of video and electronic evidence that showed Hargrove, on the night of Repkina’s death, using her ATM card to check her bank balance and make two cash withdrawals from her account totaling $800.

She also referenced witness testimony, text messages, emails and other evidence produced at trial that she said showed Hargrove frequently lied and manipulated people to get what he wanted.

Matusko rejected the defense’s contention that Chavez murdered Repkina, reminding the jury that she had denied the accusation from the witness stand during her two days of testimony in the case:

“What did Michelle Chavez say to you? ‘I never killed Anna Repkina and I feel horrible about what happened to her.’”

Throughout the trial, the jurors heard testimony about the tangled love triangle that tied the three principal actors to one another.

Chavez, trapped in a loveless marriage with an Oregon State University professor, started having relationships with other people, including Hargrove. She testified that she was sexually submissive to him, calling him “master” in the bedroom, and that she allowed him to live rent-free in the Albany house she shared with her husband.

Meanwhile, according to testimony from multiple sources, Hargrove had begun an online romance with Repkina and invited her to visit him around Christmas of 2016, staying with him for a week at Chavez’s house.

Hargrove and Repkina got engaged and moved into a Corvallis apartment together in early 2017. Chavez was angry and jealous but was still in love with Hargrove, according to testimony given in court, alternating between telling him to marry Repkina and demanding that he choose one of them over the other.

None of that has any bearing on the charges in the case, Matusko told the jurors.

“You might not like Michelle Chavez. You might not like her lifestyle. You might not like her choices,” she said.

“But that doesn’t place her at the scene. That doesn’t place her hand on the trigger. All of the evidence points to the defendant.”

Defense attorney Mike Flinn took about two hours to deliver his closing statement, methodically picking away at the case against Hargrove.

“When considering the state’s evidence in this case, I don’t want you to necessarily consider the quantity of evidence but the quality of the evidence,” he told the jury. “The state has to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. All you have to do to find my client not guilty is to find a reasonable alternative.”

Flinn argued that investigators focused on Hargrove from the beginning and never seriously considered the possibility that anyone else could have killed Anna Repkina.

“Law enforcement is supposed to explore every possible angle to the case,” he said.

“The question becomes, did the state do its due diligence in investigating Ms. Chavez. My contention is that it did not.”

Showing photos of Repkina’s body at the murder scene and citing forensic evidence, Flinn argued that the fatal shot was fired from a downward angle while the victim was standing. He said his client was too short to have done that, while Chavez is several inches taller.

Even if Hargrove did shoot his fiancee, he said, the state failed to prove that he killed her intentionally and not by accident or through negligence.

Flinn also questioned the validity of much of the state’s evidence. He noted that cell phone tracking reports placed both Hargrove’s and Chavez’s phones in the general area of the crime scene on the afternoon of the murder and cited a disclaimer from the carrier stating that location information is not 100% accurate.

The video that appears to show dark spots on Hargrove’s head when he was at the store in Alsea is grainy and unclear, Flinn argued, rejecting the state’s suggestion that it was blood spatter from Repkina’s killing.

Flinn called evidence of blood and genetic material on his client’s clothes inconclusive and questioned why investigators didn’t submit any of Chavez’s clothing to be tested for lood and DNA evidence.

“It would have been useful information to have, but the state chose not to do it,” he said.

He acknowledged that his client’s fingerprint was on the shotgun but said that didn’t prove he used it to shoot Repkina, only that he had handled it. And he called the jurors’ attention to a fingerprint on one of the spent shotgun shells found in Hargrove’s Xterra — a fingerprint left by Chavez.

“That’s the connection between Ms. Chavez and the crime scene. That’s the connection between Ms. Chavez and Anna Repkina’s body,” he said.

“Why isn’t the state following up on this?”

Finally, Flinn argued that even though Chavez may have been submissive to Hargrove in their sex life, she was really the one who controlled most aspects of their relationship. He painted a picture of Hargrove as a weak and indecisive man who couldn’t choose between the two women in his life — and of Chavez as an unstable and angry woman who couldn’t bear to let him go.

It was Chavez, not Hargrove, who killed Repkina, he said, then pointed to a number of inconsistencies in her interviews with investigators as evidence that she was trying to deflect blame onto the defendant.

“Is there any other plausible explanation other than that she’s trying to cover for herself?” he asked. “I submit to you the answer is no.”

One person jurors never heard from during the trial was the defendant: Hargrove exercised his right not to testify in his own defense.

In a brief rebuttal, Matusko pushed back on Flinn’s attempts to discredit the state’s evidence and said he was using Chavez as a “red herring” in an effort to distract the jury’s attention from Repkina’s true murderer: Hargrove.

“Common sense and reason says he killed her, not Chavez,” Matusko said.

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