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Mistrial declared on attempted murder

A jury found 27-year-old Robert Wimmer guilty of first-degree rape, but deadlocked on charges of attempted first-degree murder, first-degree kidnapping and first-degree burglary.

They acquitted Wimmer of a first-degree assault charge, finding him guilty of a lesser charge of brandishing a weapon.

The 12 jurors deliberated for about seven hours after hearing two days of testimony in Island County Superior Court. In court Friday afternoon, the presiding juror told Judge Vickie Churchill that jurors could not come to an agreement on several charges.

As a result, Churchill declared a mistrial on the attempted murder, kidnapping and burglary charges.

Deputy Prosecutor Margot Carter said the Department of Corrections would have to complete a pre-sentence investigation before Wimmer is sentenced. He remains in Island County jail.

After the hearing, Island County Prosecutor Greg Banks said it is very likely that his office will re-try Wimmer on the deadlocked charges.

In opening statements of the trial in Island County Superior Court Wednesday, Carter and Wimmer’s defense attorney, Lance Hendrix of Coupeville, offered two very different versions of events at Holly McFadden’s apartment in Oak Harbor June 20.

Carter suggested that Wimmer had a simple motive for allegedly trying to strangle his estranged wife to death: “If I can’t have you, no one else can,” Carter said a neighbor overheard heard Wimmer say as he was dragging his wife back into her apartment.

Carter said Wimmer tracked McFadden down, held her captive in her own apartment, violently raped her, strangled her until she was unconscious and held a knife to her throat when police arrived to save her.

“That was pretty terrible,” Hendrix said of Carter’s description of events. “Unfortunately, it was mostly fabricated.”

Hendrix argued that the case was really “a divorce gone wrong.” He said Wimmer was invited to his wife’s apartment and they had consensual sex. He said they got into an argument afterward. He said his client never held a knife to his wife’s throat, as a police officer claimed.

After Wimmer was arrested, “then the stories began,” Hendrix said. “The wife had enough and she wanted him locked up.”

Many of the people involved in the case are in the Navy. McFadden is a seaman while Wimmer was a petty officer second class, both stationed at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station.

McFadden gave lengthy, often emotional testimony Wednesday. She broke down a number of times and had difficulty discussing details of the rape. She described how Wimmer asked her, ominously, if she had even raped before. After assaulting her, he told her he also wanted to rape her with a knife, she testified.

McFadden testified that Wimmer said he was worried that he was “going to be a registered sex offender and wouldn’t get custody of his kids” because of what he’d done to her.

McFadden said she tried to escape, but Wimmer dragged her back inside the apartment. She thought he was going to kill her.

“He said he had no reason to live,” she said, “and he didn’t want me to live either because I was the one who had done this to him.”

McFadden vividly described how Wimmer strangled her. Her lungs burned, she started losing vision until she finally fell unconscious.

“He’s telling me how does it feel to die and I’m the person doing this to you and how does it feel,” she said.

McFadden recalled gaining consciousness on the floor and shakily getting to her feet. Under cross examination, she was fuzzy on details of how she stood up and what happened when police arrived.

The biggest hole in the prosecutor’s case involved the knife. McFadden said she didn’t remember Wimmer even holding the knife to her body, though she said he had a knife in his hand.

Oak Harbor Police Officer Dennis Dickinson testified that he and Officer Mike Clements responded to a 911 call. He was looking in the window of McFadden’s apartment, trying to coax her out the back door, when Wimmer noticed him.

Dickinson said Wimmer brought the knife to McFadden’s throat, so he yelled to Clements to kick the door down. Wimmer was surprised, Dickinson said, and brought the knife to his own throat. Clements ended up subduing Wimmer by shooting him with a Taser gun.

The jury wasn’t convinced by Dickinson’s account. They found Wimmer not guilty of the assault charge for allegedly holding knife to his wife’s throat.

McFadden’s neighbor testified that she called the police after seeing Wimmer drag McFadden into her apartment against her will. The neighbor said she heard Wimmer say, “If I can’t have you, no one can.”

While Hendrix tried to show inconsistencies in the testimony, he may have had a hard time overcoming physical evidence. Carter introduced a number of photographs as exhibits, some taken by a doctor immediately after the incident and others taken by a detective the next day. They showed dark bruises on both sides of McFadden’s throat, as well as bruising on her back, chest, arms and knees.

Hendrix suggested that some of the bruises could have come from a fall a week earlier in which McFadden broke her thumb and chipped a tooth.

Photos also showed a clump of hair and a puddle of urine at the spot where McFadden claimed Wimmer strangled her.

Unfortunately for McFadden, it looks like she may have to go through the trial again.

You can reach Jessie Stensland at jstensland@whidbeynewstimes.com or 675-6611.

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