The trial for the death of a naval petty officer in 2001 began Tuesday after two decades of sitting in the cold case locker.
The accused, Gregory Malarik, sat in court Tuesday morning while his children, Gregory “Little Greg” Malarik and Jacob Malarik, took the stand to answer questions regarding Sept. 21, 2001 — the day their mother, Petty Officer 1st Class Sherri Malarik, was murdered.
The prosecuting and defense attorneys used the witnesses to describe a timeline of what happened the final night the children saw their mother and painted a picture for the jury entailing what happened that night.
Jacob told the prosecutor that he was in between the kitchen and the dining room when he last saw his mother.
“I just remember my mom walking by and saying nonchalantly, ‘Hey, I’m going to go outside to talk to your dad,'” Jacob said. “And that was the last I saw of her.”
The prosecutor, Amy Shea, said in opening statements that Malarik had the means and the motive to murder his wife — especially surrounded by his apparent affair with Jennifer Spohn.
Spohn was identified by the two Malarik children as the family babysitter, but when Sherri Malarik, a petty officer 1st class in the Navy, deployed to Greece for a year they testified that Spohn began coming to the house more frequently, including non-babysitting days.
Original report:NCIS, ECSO arrest a Cantonment man in connection with a 2001 murder case
Pretrial:Cold case: Trial begins today for Cantonment man who allegedly murdered wife in 2001
The arrest 20 years later:NCIS: Cantonment man arrested in 20-year-old cold case murder motivated by his affair
Both Jacob and “Little Greg” told the court that they suspected their father was having an affair even though they were 11 years old at the time.
The defense and prosecution told the jury that Spohn was given immunity from any association with what happened the night of Sherri Malarik’s death, and defense attorney Chris Crawford told the News Journal that Spohn will testify during the trial.
During opening statements, Crawford told the jury that his client ought to be found not guilty due to the DNA missteps that he laid out during opening statements.
“Not one single member of law enforcement, not one single office went to a judge just like the one we have here and said, ‘You know what? We have probable cause to arrest Greg Malarik,'” Crawford said during opening statements. “They didn’t do it at 10 years. They didn’t do it at 15 years.”
He noted that investigators tested the forensic evidence found at the crime scene four to five times over the past 20 years as technology improved; however, he told jurors that the shorts Sherri Malarik were found in were never tested until 2011.
After forensically testing the shorts, Crawford told the jurors that there were three DNA contributors on the shorts — Sherri Malarik, possibly Greg Malarik and an unknown person.
Crawford also said the bullet fragments found in the van at the crime scene were never tested.
Malarik’s trial will continue Wednesday morning and is scheduled to conclude Friday.
Benjamin Johnson can be reached at email@example.com or 850-435-8578