Accused killer’s remarks to be allowed at trial
Statements attributed to an accused Fruita killer about taking lives and a murder-for-hire scenario will be allowed at trial, District Judge Thomas Deister ruled Tuesday.
Deister said the jury in the trial of 37-year-old Wayne Gert can hear testimony from two of Gert’s friends, both of whom were interviewed in the wake of Gert’s arrest in the May 21 shooting death of his roommate, Henry Trisler Jr., 37.
Six months before the shooting, Gert had fallen ill and, authorities allege, told one man his lone regret about dying “was not knowing what it was like to take a life,” according to court filings.
Another man told authorities Gert volunteered several times that he’d “make a good hitman” and would travel to Oregon to kill the man’s ex-wife for $300 to $500.
Andrew Ho, Gert’s public defender, argued Tuesday the first statement could unfairly prejudice a jury and suggested the latter was made in jest. Ho also told the judge there are no allegations in Gert’s criminal case suggesting he’d receive money for Trisler’s death.
Deister, however, ruled both statements were permissible as potential character evidence.
Trisler was shot in the head and died May 21 at Gert’s mobile home in what Gert claimed was self-defense because Trisler approached him in a threatening manner, according to an arrest affidavit. An Army veteran who had training in rocket systems, Gert told arresting officers he had been “trained to shoot to kill,” the affidavit alleged.
Gert’s family has said he had been receiving treatment and medications for bipolar disorder through the Grand Junction Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
Gert appeared in court Tuesday a free man for the first time since his arrest; he posted $150,000 bond on Nov. 19.
He’s scheduled for trial in February.