DAY ONE: Triple murder trial begins
PORTSMOUTH — The murders of a Franklin Furnace family three days before Christmas 2008 was not a drug deal gone bad, but a premeditated killing.
“This was a carefully set up murder, planned by a big time Cuban drug dealer and his local connection to take over the oxycontin traffic,” defense attorney Charles Knight told the jury in opening statements in the Kara Garvin murder trial.
Knight and William Eachus are representing Garvin in the potential death penalty case. Garvin is accused in the shooting death of Ed Mollett, his wife, Juanita, and their daughter, Christina, in the older Molletts’ trailer on Snook Road, on Dec. 22, 2008.
She faces 18 counts, including aggravated murder, aggravated robbery and aggravated burglary.
The only eyewitness to the murders is the Molletts’ then 6-year-old grandson.
“The Molletts were up to their necks in the oxycontin traffic,” Knight told the jury comprised of seven women and eight men, which includes the three alternates.
In a close to 40-minute opening Knight laid out the beginnings of a defense that may feature a connection between Garvin’s one-time boyfriend, Paul Balmer, and an alleged Florida drug dealer.
Hours following the murder, police went to the home of Garvin’s mother, Audrey Dotson, to find her whereabouts, Knight said. Her mother contacted her daughter by cell phone. Garvin then went to the Scioto County Sheriff’s Office with a cousin, attorney Rick Nash. She was later arrested.
Denying any part in the murders, Garvin told authorities Balmer would give her an alibi, Knight said.
“By midnight Paul Balmer had taken off to Florida where he hides out at this known drug dealer’s,” he said.
A few weeks later Balmer was arrested in Florida and returned to Scioto County.
However, Jill Hutchinson, Scioto County’s assistant prosecutor, stated that Balmer “drove the defendant to Snook Road, drove her there to get pills. Balmer and the defendant left Scioto County to go to Greenup, Ky.”
The prosecutor played the 911 call James Damron, a neighbor of the Molletts, made after the grandson came to his trailer seeking help after the murders.
“There’s a six-year-old boy here. He’s the only one left in the bunch,” Damron tells the dispatcher. “He has blood and guts on him.”
The dispatcher asks to speak to the boy and is told, “Some girl came and killed my mamaw, my papaw and my sissie,” the child says.
Hutchinson also stated that Balmer told authorities where he hid three guns. Bullets from one of those — a .38 special — matched a bullet taken from one of the victims.
The gun was owned by Garvin, Hutchinson said.
Throughout the first day of the trial, Garvin appeared calm. Wearing a dark pantsuit and maroon blouse, Garvin listened to witnesses and occasionally spoke to her attorneys. As her supporters filed into the courtroom, she mouthed the words, “I love you,” to her mother, who spent the day writing in a notebook.
Among the state’s witnesses were the 911 dispatcher, a paramedic on the scene of the murder and a nephew and cousin of the deceased.
The neighbor Damron, the grandson and Balmer are expected to be called for the state in the next days to testify.