The trial for a 46-year-old Fort Atkinson man accused of providing the heroin that led to the overdose death of his nephew in 2014 will resume next week.
Kurt Gutermuth waived his right to a jury trial and elected for a court trial in front of Judge Randy Koschnick.
As the second day of trial came to a close Thursday, it became apparent only one piece of evidence remained to be presented in the State’s case, a multitude of text messages from those involved in the case. Due to the nature and amount of the evidence, those text messages will be submitted via written stipulation to Judge Koschnick Friday. The judge will have time to review the text messages, which are pivotal to the case, before the trial resumes next Wednesday at 8:30.
It is expected that Assistant District Attorney Monica Hall will rest the State’s case Wednesday morning. Defense Attorney Stephen Kramer indicated the defense will likely not present or introduce any new evidence but will still have the opportunity to do so. At that point, both sides will present the closing arguments and Judge Koschnick expects to have a verdict by Wednesday afternoon.
Gutermuth is charged with first-degree reckless homicide by delivery of drugs relating to the overdose death of Daniel Belleau in April of 2014.
Thursday began with Judge Koschnick playing the audio-recordings of the 911 made by Zachariah Johnson reporting Belleau’s death, a police interview with Johnson about 19 months after Belleau’s death and a police interview with Gutermuth. Johnson’s recorded statement mirrored his testimony during the first day of trial. Gutermuth, on the other hand, blamed his roommate, Elizabeth Wilson and Johnson for Belleau’s death.
Wilson, who was granted immunity for her testimony, told the Court Thursday that she had no part in the delivery of drugs to either Johnson or Belleau on the night in question. However, her statements did have some inconsistencies with Johnson’s recount of the events on the night of April 7.
Dr. Jessica Lelinski, a forensic pathologist with the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Officer, took the stand to testify about Belleau’s autopsy. Although she did not personally perform the autopsy, she reviewed all pertinent information from the procedure and additional reports to come to her own independent conclusions. Dr. Lelinski noted that morphine was found in Belleau’s blood and urine. Futhermore, 6-monoacetylmorphine, or 6-MAM, was also found in his urine sample. According to Dr. Lelinski, the body metabolizes heroin into both morphine and 6-MAM, therefore both in bodily fluid samples indicate the decedent had ingested heroin sometime prior to death. Additionally, Dr. Lelinski clarified that there is no safe level of heroin to consume and that any amount of the drug could be lethal. Despite finding alprazolam in Belleau’s blood sample as well, Dr. Lelinski noted that heroin would and is still considered the major contributing factor in Belleau’s death leading her to her conclusion that cause of death was acute heroin intoxication.
In addition to the reckless homicide charge, Gutermuth also faces two counts of manufacture/deliver schedule IV drugs and one count of possession of narcotic drugs stemming from his own overdose in August of 2015.
Fort Atkinson Police Officer Brandon Sachse and Detective Sergeant Margareta Grey with the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office also took the stand to testify in regards to the additional drug charges. Officer Sachse was first on scene to Gutermuth’s overdose, which was called in by his mother on August 20, 2015. Upon finding Gutermuth in an intoxicated state, Sachse found unopened Fentanyl patches and a prescription pill bottle for Xanax made out to Gutermuth. Gutermuth admitted he had chewed on a Percocet patch. He was transported to Fort Memorial Hospital where doctors administered Narcan to combat the opioid overdose. Gutermuth told Sachse he had received the patches in exchange for giving Nicole Henning Xanax. He made similar statements during a debriefing session with Detective Sergeant Grey according to her testimony.
The continuation of the trial to next Wednesday, although not necessarily a common practice, is procedurally easier for the court to accommodate the parties because there is no jury involved. The third day of trial in this matter is scheduled only for the morning of February 22.