Garlinghouse trial opens with vivid testimony

By Audrey Caro

Lebanon Local

Jurors viewed Lebanon Police Department body and dash camera footage and heard Sparki Garlinghouse’s final recording during the first day of testimony in the trial of her estranged husband, Jason Garlinghouse, who is accused of murdering her.

Garlinghouse, 34, of Lebanon, is charged with murder in connection with Sparki Garlinghouse’s death on Feb. 14, 2017. His trial started Wednesday, May 16, in Linn County Circuit Court with Judge David Delsman presiding.

The Garlinghouses were in the process of a divorce and custody dispute. LPD had had contact with the couple at least six times since September of 2016 regarding custody and other divorce-related issues, according to police reports.

In his opening statement on May 16, Linn County Deputy District Attorney Keith Stein said Sparki Garlinghouse was “tricked into entering (the house) then ambushed.”

Brett Jaspers, Jason Garlinghouse’s court-appointed attorney, said Sparki Garlinghouse was “violent,” “explosive,” and a “ticking time bomb.” He said Sparki Garlinghouse was wielding a knife and Jason Garlinghouse acted in self defense.

Stein told jurors that Sparki Garlinghouse had 25 recordings on her phone.

Det. John Trenary, a cybercrime and digital evidence forensic examiner at the Linn County Sheriff’s Office, testified that he was able to determine that 13 of those recordings were taken at the house on Osprey Way Sparki once shared with Jason Garlinghouse. Her phone was found at the scene of her death.

Stein asked Trenary to create a montage of the beginnings of those recordings, which all started around 7 a.m. The montage captured the interactions when she picked up her two children at the house on Osprey Way.

In the first few recordings she knocked, then entered the house and exchanged greetings with either Jason Garlinghouse’s father, Robert, or the children. In the rest of the recordings she walked into the house without knocking but still exchanged greetings.

Robert Garlinghouse sometimes cared for the children in the mornings before school because Jason Garlinghouse left early in the morning for work, Stein said.

Stein said Sparki Garlinghouse did not go into the house when Jason Garlinghouse was there because she was “terrified” of him. Robert Garlinghouse’s vehicle was in the driveway on Feb. 14.

Stein played the recording from Feb. 14, 2017 in his opening statement. He played it again while Trenary was on the witness stand.

Trenary said he was not able to unlock the phone initially, but was provided with a PIN code on Feb. 16.

The first thing he noticed was an active application, he said, a recording app.

That recording was one hour, 19 minutes and nine seconds in length.

Trenary said he applied power to the phone, which had been on for at least two days, the amount of time since Sparki Garlinghouse’s death.

He said he worked with the digital file and truncated it to stop just before Jason Garlinghouse’s 911 call.

Trenary listened to that portion of the recording hundreds of times, he said, using high-fidelity headphones so he could hear subtle sounds.

Some sounds were easier to identify than others, he said. Some sounds he didn’t identify until the 40th or 50th time, he said.

He likened listening to the recording to looking at a crossword puzzle inches away from his face, where only certain squares were visible at a time.

Because of this, Stein asked Trenary to create a video with text over the recording, identifying the sounds that he could hear with his specialized equipment in a more acoustically-friendly environment than a courtroom.

The sounds he identified included keys jingling, a door opening, footsteps, a scream, gunshots and groans.

Between shots two and three, there was a sound like the iPhone hitting the ground, he said.

After the final groans, Trenary identified the sound of footsteps. He identified what sounded like tape coming off of a roll and at two different times, what sounded like rubber snapping, according to the video.

In the 911 call, which was played in the courtroom, Jason Garlinghouse said he shot Sparki Garlinghouse after she attacked him.

Stein called LPD officer James Glover to testify and showed bodycam footage from Glover’s camera.

Glover turned the bodycam off shortly after entering the house and seeing Sparki Garlinghouse’s body, because of his own language, he said.

He and Officer Travis Luttmer arrived at approximately the same time and both said some words that would be considered profanity as they saw Sparki Garlinghouse’s body and walked through the house.

Luttmer left his bodycam on as he and Glover “cleared” the house to make sure there were no other victims.

Glover said he saw the victim lying face down with her feet pointing toward the front door.

He said he saw a gun on the kitchen counter.

Officer Japheth Adams testified that when he arrived at the house on Osprey Way, Jason Garlinghouse was sitting against a support post on the porch and the front door was open.

Adams testified he saw a person inside, lying face down.

Adams said Garlinghouse told him that his children were not there and that his girlfriend had taken them to McDonald’s for breakfast. Additionally, Adams said, Garlinghouse told him that he hadn’t been feeling well and had to use the restroom.

Jaspers asked Adams if he asked Garlinghouse if there were children there; Adams said he wasn’t sure.

Adams said while Garlinghouse was at the Lebanon Police Department, he accompanied him to the bathroom twice.

Stein played Luttmer’s body-cam video when he was on the stand.

Sparki Garlinghouse was lying face down and had a knife in her right hand, he said.

He took the knife from her hand and rolled her over to check for vital signs.

He saw multiple gunshot wounds.

Her head was twisted up into the couch, he said.

Stein asked Trenary to stand in as Sparki Garlinghouse and Luttmer helped pose Trenary on the floor of the courtroom in a way similar to the way he found Garlinghouse.

Luttmer said she was clutching two backpacks and keys in one hand. He had to pry them out of her hand, he said.

The hand that had the bread knife in it was completely wide open, he said. He effortlessly picked it up and placed it on a keyboard that was on a nearby counter.

That’s when he rolled her over toward him.

Luttmer said he looked for bullet holes and saw the gun on the kitchen counter and the back of the couch had a tear and a large blood stain.

Thomas Hill, Jason Garlinghouse’s other court-appointed attorney, asked Luttmer if he had been trained to preserve crime scenes and to not move physical evidence.

Luttmer said he had been.

He said he moved the body to make sure the victim was not alive.

Amie Keys, Linn County deputy medical examiner, said she went to the house on Osprey Way after LPD obtained a search warrant.

She saw the body of a female with blood around her, Keys said.

When Garlinghouse’s attorney asked if she had a preference about having a crime scene preserved, Keys hesitated.

“It’s my preference that somebody’s life is saved,” she said, adding that was probably why the body was moved.

LPD Officer Justin McCubbins, who was a detective at the time the killing occurred, said his first concern when he was assigned to the Garlinghouse case was to determine if this was self defense.

At the house, he looked for anything “out of the ordinary,” he said.

Based on the 911 call, on where the body was, where the wounds were on the body and where the shell casings were, McCubbins said, “it didn’t make sense to me.”

According to police reports, eight spent casings were located – five near the body, two at the opposite end of the kitchen floor, and one on top of the refrigerator.

Officers observed at least four round holes in the back of the victim’s torso, according to reports.

McCubbins said the bread knife that was in Sparki Garlinghouse’s hand matches the set of knives that was in the knife block on the kitchen counter.

The way the knife block was positioned, he said, someone would have had to move the knife block to get the bread knife out of it, he said.

McCubbins said he thought it was odd that there was a shell casing above the refrigerator and on the keyboard.

Jaspers asked McCubbins about the bread knife, which was in the courtroom as well as the knife block and the gun Jason Garlinghouse used.

“You’d agree with me the bread knife is dirty?” Jaspers said.

McCubbins said it appears to have smears.

The knives in the knife block were clean, Jaspers stated. McCubbins agreed.

Jaspers asked McCubbins about a cutting board with bread crumbs and French bread in a baggie that was on a counter.

McCubbins confirmed there was a cutting board with crumbs on it.

During the May 16 court date, Stein also called Brandon Stoering, who was Sparki Garlinghouse’s boyfriend.

The trial, scheduled to last eight days, was originally on the court calendar for Sept. 25, 2017, but was postponed when Garlinghouse’s then-attorney, John Rich, filed a motion to withdraw from representing Garlinghouse.

Garlinghouse had made a request on July 11, 2017 for a new attorney, which was denied then by Delsman. Garlinghouse listed a few reasons he wanted a new attorney, “the most disturbing” to him was that Rich “attempted to convince me to ignore my innocence and my right to prove my innocence by telling me that if I were to plead guilty to murder that the custody and care of my children could be resolved without further issue,” Garlinghouse wrote in the July 11 letter.

The trial is now scheduled to end May 24. May 15 was devoted to jury selection. The first day of testimony was May 16.

Jason Garlinghouse talks to his defense team during the opening day of his trial.
Prosecuter Keith Stein uses Linn County Sheriff’s detective John Trenary as a prop as Lebanon Police officer Travis Luttmer shows the jury how he removed the knife from Sparki Garlinghouse before rolling over her body.