Opening arguments in the State v. Trenton Esch began at 9 a.m. this morning (June 16, 2021) in Custer County District Court with the first witness taking the stand at 9:40.
In his 14-minute opening statement, Zachary Blackman, prosecutor for the state, told the jury the case is about a “lifelong hatred that led Trenton Esch to kill his stepmother.” Blackburn said they would see a video of Trenton Esch entering Crystal Esch’s home and exiting only seconds later “holding a long barrel pistol.” He asked the jurors to use common sense as they would look at facts and conclude that the murder was deliberate, intentional and premeditated.”
In his opening statement that lasted 17 minutes, defense attorney Martin Davis told the jury that it would be an easy case on two of the counts. He acknowledged that Esch is a convicted felon who was in possession of a firearm and that Esch used a firearm to commit a crime.
“He’s not denying that. He’s going to take the stand and he will tell you that,” Davis said. Davis stated that what needs to be determined beyond a reasonable doubt, is that the killing was deliberate and premeditated. We don’t deny homicide was committed, “ Davis said. “The burden of proof is that beyond a reasonable doubt that the crime was premeditated.” Davis said Esch “snapped” and that the shooting was “emotional.” He told the jury that the defense is asking that “you find him guilty of manslaughter without malice.”
Before breaking for lunch, the court heard from three witnesses for the prosecution - Custer County Chief Deputy Adam Miller, NSP Investigator Mike Dowling and NSP Investigator Jeff Stelton. Testimony revealed that Esch walked out of a shed/barn structure west of his south Broken Bow resident and surrendered peacefully about 9:30 p.m. The shooting took place on Round Valley Road with law enforcement receiving the first calls about it shortly after 6 p.m.
Before testimony is over, more law enforcement officers will take the stand, as well as two juveniles who were present when the shooting took place as well as Trent Esch.
Esch 45, of Broken Bow faces three counts - Murder in the First Degree, a class 1A felony; Use of Firearm to commit a felony, a class 1C felony; and Possession of a firearm by a prohibited person, a Class 1D felony - in connection with the July 11, 2020 death of Crystal Esch.