Defense: Nollette intended suicide – Attorneys argue no harm was meant toward the girl — (Lewiston Morning Tribune)

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Lewiston Morning Tribune

June 27, 2002

Author: Kerri Sandaine

ASOTIN — Brian L. Nollette Jr. called his sister to say good bye as police surrounded his car Jan. 16 during a three-hour standoff near Chief Timothy State Park.

“He told me he loved me and he was sorry he was a bad brother,” Renee DeGraff said Wednesday in Asotin County Superior Court. “He asked me to tell mom and dad good bye. I told him I loved him and I’d always be there for him.”

DeGraff was one of five defense witnesses called to the stand on the third day of Nollette’s trial. He is charged with first-degree kidnapping and second-degree assault for allegedly using a gun to abduct a 12-year-old girl in the Clarkston Heights earlier this year.

The girl was released shortly after Nollette was pulled over on Highway 12.

The defense is arguing Nollette did not intend to harm the girl and shouldn’t be convicted of first-degree kidnapping and second-degree assault . Attorney Thomas Ledgerwood has said this case is really about a suicide attempt.

Public Defender Denton Andrews was called to testify briefly about a demonstration involving a toy gun that occurred during the defense’s interview with the alleged victim.

Andrews said the girl indicated Nollette pulled the gun completely out of his pocket at the time of the abduction.

Prosecutor Benjamin Nichols then called Rick Van Cleave, the girl’s father, as a rebuttal witness; he asked about some technical points from the defense interview of the girl.

“You’d do anything for your daughter, wouldn’t you?” Ledgerwood asked the girl’s father during the cross examination.

“No,” he replied. “I wouldn’t lie for her.”

Nollette did not take the stand in his own defense. Dressed in khaki pants and a blue shirt and tie, he sat quietly between his lawyers and showed little emotion except smiling at an ex-girlfriend as she walked by to testify.

Stephanie Haynie of Coeur d’Alene told jurors she met Nollette when they were both students at Eastern Washington University in Cheney. They dated briefly and have remained friends, she said.

They both worked at Silverwood Theme Park last summer, but Nollette was fired in September.

Haynie said Nollette attempted suicide in September near Cheney by taking an overdose of pills. He was airlifted to Sacred Heart Hospital in Spokane after she found him in a parking lot having a seizure in the front seat of his car.

She said Nollette also made an earlier suicide attempt in March by overdosing on pills at his dorm in Cheney.

When questioned about his vehicle, Haynie said Nollette often carried his knife set in his car and the backseat was usually a disaster.

Haynie also told jurors she spoke to Nollette during the standoff on Jan. 16. “He was very panicked,” she said. “I could hear someone yelling at him to get out of the car. He told me he was scared.”

DeGraff said she took her baby and her father to the standoff scene after receiving Nollette’s cell phone call.

They were stopped at the roadblock and couldn’t get near Nollette’s white car. DeGraff said she ran by the line of cars and was comforted by a fireman near the scene.

When questioned about her brother’s hobbies, she said he loves cooking and was learning to be a pastry chef. He enjoyed taking pictures and bought many disposable cameras.

DeGraff also said Nollette, who lives with his parents, was in the process of hooking up a surround-sound system in the basement and used white plastic ties to secure wires.

James Nollette told jurors his older brother worked at Gateway Golf Center part time and was repairing a net two weeks before the alleged incident. Black plastic ties like the ones found in Nollette’s rucksack are used at the golf business, he said.

Dr. Phillip Mackinnon, a psychologist at St. Joseph Regional Medical Center, said Nollette had difficulty with depression and was taking Zoloft, an anti-depressant, at the time of the standoff.

The defense rested its case around noon after three hours of testimony.

Before the jurors were called in Wednesday morning, Ledgerwood asked Superior Court Judge William D. Acey to dismiss the charges filed against his client saying the state had failed to prove its case.

“At best, the prosecution has only proved kidnapping in the second degree,” Ledgerwood said.

Judge Acey denied the motion after a lively description of the state’s evidence in the case.

The defendant allegedly grabbed a girl off the street in a car that looks like a “county mounty in a plain white wrapper,” bought 90 rounds of ammunition, a full tank of gas and was carrying duct tape, wire ties and two disposable cameras in a rucksack.

“What in God’s name does a person need that for if he’s going to commit suicide?” Acey said.

The state has presented enough evidence for the jury to decide whether Nollette is guilty of his charges, Acey concluded.

An Asotin County jury will decide Nollette’s fate today after hearing closing arguments, which begin at 9 a.m.
Record Number: 0200048203:
Copyright, 2002, Lewiston Morning Tribune