A defense witness testifies that Conner Schierman was in an alcohol-related blackout and doesn't know how four women and children were killed in a Kirkland home in 2006.
Conner Schierman awoke face down on a stranger’s bed, unsure of why he was surrounded by blood.
He got up and walked into the hallway of the strange house, where he immediately encountered the bodies of two children.
Schierman shakily continued through the home and found the body of a woman at the bottom of a flight of stairs. Minutes later, he found another slain woman in a bedroom.
The Kirkland man said he had no idea where he was on that July 2006 day and what violent act led to the four deaths, according to psychiatrist Dr. Andrew Saxon, who testified Thursday for the defense.
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Saxon’s account, based on two post-arrest interviews with the defendant, provided jurors with the first glimpse at Schierman’s defense in his death-penalty trial on four counts of aggravated murder and one count of arson.
According to the testimony by Saxon and a second defense witness, Schierman does not remember the events before waking up in the home of neighbor Olga Milkin because of an alcohol-induced blackout.
Schierman, 28, has not taken the witness stand in his defense and it is unclear whether he plans to testify. The defense is expected to rest its case in the coming days, then the state will call rebuttal witnesses.
If convicted of the murder charges, Schierman could face the death penalty.
The burned bodies of Milkin, 28; her sister Lyubov Botvina, 24; and Milkin’s two sons, Justin, 5, and Andrew, 3, were found inside the destroyed home on July 17, 2006. Schierman, who lived across the street, was arrested a short time later.
Schierman is believed to have consumed more than a liter of vodka in the hours leading up to the slayings, according to the testimony of Saxon and former state toxicologist Barry Logan.
Saxon, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Washington who specializes in addiction issues, told jurors he believes that Schierman blacked out at some point during the night of July 16 or early the next morning.
Logan testified Thursday he believes Schierman had a blood-alcohol content of 0.35, more than four times Washington’s legal intoxication threshold of 0.08 percent.
Logan said he came up with the figure by reviewing how much Schierman drank — three bottles of Ketel One vodka — his weight, and the time during which the alcohol was consumed.
Logan resigned from his position in 2008 after the State Patrol toxicology lab came under scrutiny over allegations of sloppy work and fraud that jeopardized DUI breath-test results.
While Schierman told Saxon he couldn’t say what caused the four deaths, he conceded that after surveying the blood throughout the three-floor house, he decided he needed to take a shower, which he did at the Milkin home. He also decided he would set fire to the home, Saxon testified.
After his shower, Schierman walked home, changed his clothes and drove to a nearby convenience store, where he bought two containers of gasoline.
Schierman then returned to the Milkin house, set it ablaze, then returned home to take a nap, Saxon said.
Since the trial began in January, jurors have heard testimony from police, firefighters, Schierman’s roommates, DNA experts and members of the victims’ family while the state presented their case.
Senior Deputy Prosecutor Scott O’Toole has contended Schierman is linked to the killings by DNA as well as his statements to police.
Witnesses also reported seeing Schierman walking from the Milkin home minutes before the fire was reported.
Jennifer Sullivan: 206-464-8294 or firstname.lastname@example.org