Jason Garlinghouse convicted of murder

A Linn County jury found Jason Garlinghouse, 34, guilty of murdering Sparki Garlinghouse, his estranged wife, on Feb. 14, 2017 at the home they once shared on Osprey Way.

Jason Garlinghouse is scheduled to be sentenced on June 15, after Lebanon Local goes to press. This story will be updated on Lebanon Local’s website, lebanonlocalnews.com.

The verdict was delivered May 22 after about four hours of deliberation.

Linn County Circuit Court Judge David E. Delsman presided.

During the five-day trial, jurors heard testimony from law enforcement, family members and acquaintances of both Garlinghouses.

They also repeatedly heard a recording of Sparki Garlinghouse’s final moments, which she recorded herself on her cellphone.

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 recordings on her phone were taken at the house on Osprey Way.

Those were instances when she went to pick up their children at the home.

The Garlinghouses were in the process of a fractious divorce and custody dispute. The Lebanon Police Department 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.

A montage of the Sparki Garlinghouse’s recordings was played for the court during the trial.

In the first few recordings Sparki 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, said Linn County Deputy District Attorney Keith Stein.

“I knew she was recording; you could see it on her phone,” Robert Garlinghouse testified.

He said he told Jason about it.

Jason Garlinghouse said he and Sparki met in 2000, when he was 16 years old. They both worked at Kentucky Fried Chicken.

He said that her “demeanor varied widely.”

“She would have times when she was very bubbly and happy,” Jason Garlinghouse said.

Other times she was not, and got into arguments with other employees and with customers, he said.

He and Sparki dated for three years before getting married, Jason said.

Before marriage, she was in “in the very bubbly stage,” he testified.

As they got closer, they had more arguments that got to the point where neither of their parents approved of them dating, Jason said.

“I assumed, with getting married, there would be a happy bubbly, people call it the honeymoon period,” Jason said. “That didn’t really seem to be the case.”

He testified that throughout their 13-year marriage, her temper worsened, and that Sparki was abusive to him and their children.

Jason described one incident in which, he said, she kicked him in the face and as he was tending to his bloody nose, she was crying and apologizing.

It was a pattern, he said.

“She would often, in an argument, block a doorway or get in my way,” Jason said.

He said if they were in an open space she would stand in his way and shove him and tell him that he could not leave.

Jason testified that Sparki would grab his shirt or hair or ear and that she also would hold on to his head with one hand and swing into his head with the other.

He said she also would throw things.

“I don’t know how many bruises and cuts I’ve gotten on my body over the years,” Jason said.

On the morning of Feb. 14, 2017, Jason said he and his girlfriend planned to take his children out to McDonald’s for breakfast.

Jason stayed behind because he was feeling sick, he said.

He said about 10 minutes after his girlfriend and children left, Sparki entered the house.

Jason said he had sent Sparki a text message to not go to the house that day.

He said when he told Sparki that the children with his girlfriend, “she exploded,” swore at him and threw her phone at him.

Jason said she grabbed his hair.

“(It) had happened so many times in the past I figured I’m going to start getting hit here,” Jason said.

He said she picked up the bread knife that was on the counter and threatened to cut him.

“I was terrified it was about to get violent with the knife,” he said.

He said she left and he went to the closet in his bedroom to get his gun.

“My life has been threatened; I’m going to be armed for the rest of the day,” Jason said.

He said he heard the door open again and that she had the knife.

“My hand went to my holster,” he said. “Sparki walked into my view and she had her left hand clenched and she had the knife.”

He testified that her right arm “came up with the knife” and he shot her.

“I ended up emptying my gun,” he said.

Stein questioned Garlinghouse about the sounds on the recording that were identified after Sparki was shot.

The sounds Trenary identified in the recording of that morning 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, Trenary 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.

“There’s no sound on there for anything I did that I can specifically recall,” Garlinghouse said.

About three minutes passed between the time Sparki was shot and Jason called 911.

Jason Garlinghouse’s trial was originally scheduled for Sept. 25, 2017, but was rescheduled after his court-appointed attorney John C. Rich filed a motion to withdraw from representation on Sept. 8.

Garlinghouse was represented by court-appointed attorneys Brett Corey Jaspers and Thomas A. Hill.

In his closing arguments during the trial, Stein told the jury they only heard one side of what happened.

“We didn’t hear Sparki’s side, but in a way we really did because she recorded it for us,” Stein said.

Stein played the recording for them again.

He said the argument from the defense, about Sparki exiting and entering the house made little sense in light of what is on the recording.

Stein said Jason Garlinghouse had set a trap for Sparki.

“There was no knife fight ladies and gentlemen,” Stein said. “(Sparki) walked in just as she had every day and she was dead within seconds, that’s how it happened.”

Jaspers told jurors the state argued the knife was planted on the victim, but the state did not test the knife for fingerprints.

He said the direction of the prints were relevant, that fingerprints would show whether Jason Garlinghouse had held the knife in a different way other than that for cutting bread.

No blood spatter or human tissue was found on the bottom of Garlinghouse’s boots, Jaspers said.

“Sparki grabbed a knife that had already been there from the night before,” Jaspers said.

Jaspers told jurors in closeing arguments that they would have to determine “whether the state had proven beyond a reasonable doubt, not only that Jason Garlinghouse is guilty of the crime, but that he didn’t act in self defense.”

He said Jason Garlinghouse did what he thought was necessary to preserve his life.