Centre County’s first murder trial in years started Monday as District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller and defense attorney Karen Muir presented their opening arguments to jury members.
Alois Kudlach, 51, is accused of killing his wife, Nuria, on the morning of Aug. 30, 2015, with a handgun. Kudlach has claimed the shooting was in self-defense.
Kudlach is charged with first-degree murder, third-degree murder, aggravated assault, intercepting communications for secretly recording his wife and possession of a weapon.
Opening arguments began after Judge Jonathan D. Grine instructed the jury on its duties.
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Parks Miller opened, explaining the forensics of the shooting to the jury — how Nuria Kudlach was shot three times as she moved across the kitchen, with the third and final shot ending her life.
Parks Miller also detailed the lives of the Kudlachs, describing them as a “dysfunctional” family and the days of arguments that led to the fatal day. She also detailed Kudlach’s story of how his fear of a potential knife attack by his wife led to the shooting.
“This is a case of staged self-defense that failed miserably,” Parks Miller said.
Muir presented a photo of the Kudlachs’ home, noting that while it was picturesque on the outside, “you never know what goes on behind closed doors.”
Jurors would only be learning of a snippet of the Kudlachs’ life, she said, and while police say they know what happened, they could also be wrong.
“Police could be wrong,” Muir said. “We know this because you are here. If the police and the district attorney were right all the time, we would have no need for a trial.”
Muir urged the jury to “walk a mile” in Kudlach’s shoes, after which, they would see that the killing was justified.
Monday’s testimonies largely focused on those who responded to the Kudlachs’ College Township home.
State College police patrol officers and detectives testified to their initial impressions of the scene as well as the disposition of Kudlach and his son, Alex, who was also in the home at the time.
Detective John Aston provided testimony accompanied by numerous photographs, describing his warranted search of the Kudlach house.
Aston testified that the search had begun in the second story then moved to the basement before the ground floor was searched in order to give state police forensic workers time to investigate the scene of the shooting.
Aston noted that he found it “interesting” that three cups of coffee were found in the house — an empty one next to Kudlach’s cellphone, a full one on a nearby end table and another full cup in the kitchen near the body.
According to court documents, Kudlach told police after the shooting that his wife had returned to the kitchen to get more coffee before the incident occurred.
Aston also noted the safe in which Kudlach allegedly kept his firearms. Kudlach told police he retrieved a handgun from the safe a few days prior to the shooting, Aston said, but noticed that boxes and other items stacked in front of the safe appeared not to have been moved long enough for cobwebs to have formed around them.
Several pieces of physical evidence were presented to jury members during Aston’s testimony, including electronic devices, the .45-caliber handgun found at the scene and shell casings of the three shots fired in the incident. Aston also presented photographic evidence of the wounds found on Nuria Kudlach.
A nearby neighbor of the Kudlachs, Steven McQuay, also testified about what he heard the morning of the shooting.
McQuay said he had been outside with his dog that morning when he heard what he was sure were three gunshots in the vicinity of the Kudlachs’ home. McQuay characterized the timing as a longer delay between the first and second shots with a shorter delay between the second and third.
Jury members also heard the 911 call made by Kudlach the morning of the shooting. In the call, Kudlach claimed his wife came at him with a knife, but he defended himself and “everything is OK now.”
A crying voice, identified as the son, said his mother had been shot and “she’s gone.” Seated next to Muir, Kudlach could be seen wiping his eyes with a handkerchief as the call played.
The trial is scheduled to continue through Friday.