Prosecutors in Coal Creek Canyon triple homicide case focus on behavior, wad of cash while defense says it’s all coincidence

Garrett Coughlin in court on June 4.
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Around 10:30 a.m. on April 13, 2017, video surveillance shows Garrett Coughlin going to an ATM and depositing $360 in cash. Just a few hours earlier, Wallace White, Kelly Sloat-White and Emory Fraker were murdered at 800 Divide View Drive in Coal Creek Canyon.

For a then-24-year-old struggling to stabilize his finances due in large part to an addiction to heroin, prosecutors in Coughlin’s triple homicide trial have pointed to this being highly suspicious.

Coughlin, now 26, is accused of shooting White, 54; Sloat-White, 56; and Fraker, 39, whose bodies were found April 15, 2017. He has been charged with three counts of first-degree murder after deliberation, three counts of felony murder and one count of aggravated robbery. If convicted of any of the six murder counts, he would be subject to a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

“You see him pull up in his Trail Blazer and deposit that cash,” Deputy District Attorney Christine Rinke, said. “What you’ll also notice is that the defendant has a wad of cash in his hand, he’s breathing heavily, that he’s wiping sweat.”

Not only does it occur on the same day as the murders of three people Coughlin knew to be running an illegal marijuana grow operation that generated large sums of cash, but the deposit also occurs before his payday, and on a day when Coughlin told his supervisors he was late for work because his car had broken down.

The deposit also brought his account out of a negative balance, according to prosecutors.

Combined with a firearms experts at the Colorado Bureau of Investigation reporting that two of the bullets found in the victims were likely fired from a gun known to be in the possession of Coughlin and that he suddenly came to have 2 to 3 pounds of marijuana he was looking to sell, the prosecution believes the evidence proves Coughlin’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

In an attempt to show the jury that Coughlin’s actions were that of a desperate drug addict, the prosecution called 12 witnesses on Monday, including Coughlin’s older brother, Ethan Coughlin, one of Coughlin’s best friends, Dustin Morton, and the managers of the EZ Pawn shops Coughlin visited on May 9, shortly before being arrested, where he tried to pawn a ring for $200.

While all of the witnesses described Coughlin as acting strange, or even “frightened” as Morton said, in the days and weeks following the murder, the defense has continually urged witnesses to admit that though it seems unlikely all of the events were merely coincidences, there is no proof to the contrary.

Nothing ties Coughlin to being at the murder scene on April 13, 2017, the firearms expert admitted the gun in question might not have been the murder weapon and, if it was, no DNA evidence shows Coughlin was the last person to handle it, the defense pointed out.

Coughlin’s lawyers asserted the extra cash Coughlin was seen with at the time was earned by doing yard work for a neighbor.

“People go to the pawn shop to get some extra money, right?” one of Coughlin’s lawyers, Christian Griffin, asked one of the managers from EZ Pawn on Monday. “They don’t pawn things after they supposedly just come into some money, right?”

Monday marked the start of the second week of Coughlin’s trial in Boulder District Court. The trial is slated to last through June 21.

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