Lawyers: Booze, insult fueled Fruita slaying
Fueled by hours of drinking rum and Coke and a crude remark about his girlfriend, Fruita resident Wayne Gert chose to end a spat with his roommate by pulling out a .357 revolver and shooting him in the face, prosecutors told jurors.
Gert’s defense said Thursday that they largely agreed.
Gert, 38, will testify why he did it, Public Defender Heidi Taylor told a jury during opening statements of Gert’s trial for the May 2010 slaying of 37-year-old Henry Trisler Jr.
“Wayne was backed into a corner in his own home, and he reasonably believed he was in imminent danger,” Taylor said.
Prosecutors suggested Gert’s response wasn’t reasonable.
Clean-shaven in a business suit Thursday, Gert, who is free on bond, listened in on arguments and early witnesses in his trial before District Judge Thomas Deister. Gert has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder, felony menacing, possession of an explosive device or parts, and prohibited use of a weapon.
Trisler, a friend of Gert’s from high school, had been living at Gert’s trailer at 530 Virgo Way, along with Gert’s girlfriend, Nikki Varela. The trio was alone drinking on May 21, 2010, when a disparaging comment by Trisler sent everyone into a foul mood, attorneys on both sides said.
Trisler told Gert that Varela had a “fat ass.”
“This starts the chain of events that led Wayne Gert to defend himself from Henry Trisler,” Taylor told the jury.
Gert replied to Trisler, “Shut up,” she told the jury.
Trisler stood up from a couch and eventually took a step, or lunged, at Gert despite being warned to stop, attorneys said. Armed with a loaded .357 handgun, Gert nonetheless felt threatened, the defense argues.
“He had a split-second decision to react to being lunged at,” Taylor said.
Tests showed Trisler had a blood-alcohol content of .259 percent, more than three times Colorado’s legal limit for driving. Gert, meanwhile, had a BAC of .136 percent, according to testimony.
When officers arrived at the scene, Gert explained Trisler didn’t need a doctor, but a coroner, explaining, “I’ve been trained to shoot to kill,” according to an arrest affidavit.
The son of a retired veteran Colorado State Patrol trooper, Gert enlisted in the U.S. Army in March 1992 and was promoted to the rank of specialist working with multiple rocket launch systems before he was discharged in September 1997.
At the time of the slaying, Gert listed the Army as his employer on a Facebook profile.