2006 Brier murder trial goes to jurors

EVERETT — Noel Evan Caldellis fired four shots while standing in a Brier cul-de-sac outside a party, lawyers on both sides of a murder case agreed Monday.

They disagreed whether a prosecutor has proven that any of those bullets hit and killed Jay Clements, 21.

A Snohomish County Superior Court jury on Monday began deliberating on the case. They heard testimony for nearly five weeks and spent most of Monday listening to closing arguments by the attorneys.

Judge Thomas Wynne sent jurors home late in the afternoon. The panel was scheduled to resume deliberating this morning whether Caldellis, 20, of Seattle, is guilty of first-degree murder. He also is charged with two counts of second-degree assault against two others who had attended the Labor Day weekend party at a home in Brier.

“The only just verdict in this case is to return a verdict of not guilty on the three counts,” Seattle defense lawyer Raymond McFarland told jurors.

Deputy prosecutor Matt Hunter has a far different view of the evidence.

“The state has proved the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt,” Hunter told jurors. “He is responsible for killing Jay Clements and you have to hold him responsible.”

The trial has focused on a grudge between some of Caldellis’ friends and a person who attended the Brier party. Numerous young people, including Caldellis, drove from the Shoreline area to the party for a fight.

Fistfights broke out almost as soon as the Shoreline bunch arrived. According to testimony, Caldellis held back in the street, watching, when someone yelled out: “Where’s the burner?”

Caldellis told police he brought the .357-caliber pistol with him and pulled it out when it appeared some of his friends were losing. He also told police he fired twice in the air and twice more into the crowd.

Clements was struck in the chest and groin. He was found mortally wounded in a planting area by a maple tree when police arrived.

Both bullets passed through Clements, and no traces of it were found during autopsy. The only bullet forensically connected with Caldellis’ pistol was found about 100 yards away on the concrete patio in the back yard of a neighbor’s house.

The defense maintained the bullet was fired at crowd level, and in a direction away from Clements. The prosecution argued the bullet was one of those fired into the air.

Witnesses were all over the board on the number of shots fired and who fired them. A few identified the shooter as a tall, black man. Caldellis is short and white. Nonetheless, Caldellis told police that he fired four shots.

Caldellis was only trying to disperse the crowd, McFarland told jurors. He had a legitimate purpose in breaking up a fight to protect his friends.

McFarland was critical of the Lynnwood police investigation, saying that detectives focused on Caldellis quickly and didn’t pursue other leads.

“The police aren’t interested in getting to the truth,” McFarland said. “They’re interested in closing their case.”

There’s no evidence of a second gunman, and it’s no wonder eye witness accounts vary because of the confusion and panic caused when the shots rang out, Hunter said.

Caldellis is charged with showing “extreme indifference to human life” for firing into the crowd.

“This case doesn’t take a rocket scientist to resolve. It just takes some common sense,” Hunter told jurors. “Guilty is the only verdict that reflects justice in this case.”

Reporter Jim Haley: 425-339-3447 or jhaley@heraldnet.com.

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