When Martin “David” Pietz placed a call from his wife’s cellphone to his own cellphone in January 2006, it “pinged” off a tower near the Seattle gym where he was working at the time.
It was that phone call that put the state’s case against Pietz “over the top,” King County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Kristin Richardson said Monday, moments after a jury convicted Pietz of second-degree murder for the death of his wife, Nicole Pietz.
The case against Pietz was built on circumstantial evidence, and circumstantial cases can be more difficult to prove, Richardson said. Part of the case included the steps Pietz took to make it appear his wife was still alive even after she was slain.
“To us, circumstantial cases are the most rewarding,” said Richardson, who, along with Senior Deputy Prosecutor Carla Carlstrom, prosecuted Pietz. “You have to pile up the facts to get over the hump of burden of proof.”
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The jury of six men and six women deliberated for about a day and a half before finding Pietz guilty of strangling his wife in the couple’s Lynnwood condo and leaving her naked body in a wooded area in Burien. He was arrested and charged in March 2012, more than six years after her death.
Defense attorney David Allen said Pietz plans to appeal his conviction. Allen said much was made during trial of Pietz’s numerous affairs, which Allen argued didn’t have a lot to do with the case.
Pietz, 36, faces a prison sentence of 10 to 18 years when he is sentenced Nov. 7.
As soon as King County Superior Court Judge Michael Hayden read the guilty verdict aloud, a gasp echoed through the courtroom and members of Nicole Pietz’s family wept openly. When Pietz was led away in handcuffs, Nicole’s sister Tonia Zurcher pointed at him and yelled, “You’re going to burn in hell, Pietz.”
Nicole’s mother, Gael Schneider, said the family was “absolutely elated” by the verdict.
“I just wanted justice for my daughter and we got it,” she said. “These last 7½ years have been torture for us.”
She said Pietz bought gifts for other women with his wife’s money and that he was fired twice for sexual harassment, something the jury never heard.
“To think what my daughter went through in the last moments of her life, it’s too awful,” Schneider said.
Prosecutors told jurors that Pietz argued with his wife after he arrived home from work around midnight Jan. 28, 2006. “At some point, his temper boiled over and he strangled her to death,” Carlstrom said during opening statements on Sept. 12.
“He got rid of her body; he got rid of her car” and showed up to work later that day as expected.
He then “pretended to be surprised” when she failed to arrive at a friend’s dinner party that night and again when he learned she hadn’t shown up for an earlier Alcoholics Anonymous meeting in Renton, where she was to receive a coin commemorating her eight years of sobriety, Carlstrom said.
The phone call Pietz made to himself from his wife’s cellphone that same day was an apparent ploy to make it appear Nicole Pietz was still alive, even though she had been killed hours earlier.
During closing statements Thursday, Richardson told the jury that Pietz had grown tired of his wife, was unfaithful, wanted a more creative sex life and was “cold and callous.”
Allen, the defense attorney, said prosecutors failed to establish a motive. The defense conceded Pietz had been unfaithful but said that didn’t make him a killer.
“Dave Pietz isn’t the first guy to step out on his spouse,” Allen told jurors last week. “Is it a motive to kill his wife? He had bad boundaries; he’s oversexed.”
Information from Seattle Times archives is included in this report. Sara Jean Green: 206-515-5654 or firstname.lastname@example.org