Prosecutors question self-defense claim in slaying of Mount Vernon dog trainer

MOUNT VERNON — Prosecutors on Wednesday questioned a security expert who claims self-defense in the death of a prominent dog trainer, asking how he didn’t know exactly where the trainer was shot and why he didn’t go to police.

Michiel Oakes returned to the witness stand a day after he told jurors that he shot and killed dog trainer Mark Stover with the dog trainer’s own .22-caliber revolver during a struggle at Stover’s home. Oakes said he was saved by a bullet-resistant vest he was wearing.

Oakes is dating Stover’s ex-wife, Linda Opdycke, whom the dog trainer was convicted of stalking following their divorce. Oakes has testified that the dog trainer had threatened Oakes and his family, and followed the couple while they traveled in Montana.

Opdycke, the 46-year-old daughter of a co-founder of Chateau Ste. Michelle, the state’s biggest winery, told jurors Wednesday that she left Stover in part because he wasn’t getting help for anger issues.

Stover’s clients included members of Pearl Jam and Nirvana, moviemaker Cameron Crowe, Starbucks chairman Howard Schultz and Mariners outfielder Ichiro Suzuki.

During cross-examination, Skagit County Prosecutor Rich Weyrich asked why Oakes — a security expert who says he has trained police and military personnel in close-combat techniques — would put himself in such a vulnerable position in the home of an enemy without drawing either of the two handguns he was carrying.

Oakes, 42, testified Tuesday that Stover on repeated occasions had asked him for wedding photos he believed his ex-wife had, including the request that led to the fatal struggle on Oct. 28, 2009. He has said that on that morning, he showed up to the home without the photos and that Stover became enraged and asked that he wait in a downstairs washroom.

Oakes said he thought Stover had a gun.

“And you just stood there in the washroom waiting for him to come back?” Weyrich asked.

“That is correct,” Oakes replied, adding: “I’ve been carrying guns for 21 years, and I’ve never drawn a gun. I’ve been scared a lot of times and nothing bad ever happened.”

Oakes also said he didn’t go to police because he thought no one would believe his story.

Oakes has said that after the shooting, he dumped the gun and Stover’s body into the sea by a dilapidated dock behind a tribal casino.

Under questioning from Weyrich, he said he never checked to see where the bullet struck Stover, despite moving the body from the home to Stover’s car, then to his own car and finally to the dock. He said be believed Stover, 57, was shot in the neck or head.

“You weren’t curious enough to look?” Weyrich asked.

“I was very disturbed,” Oakes said.

Oakes said he had shown up at Stover’s house, as the dog trainer ordered, with two guns and a bullet-resistant vest because he believed the meeting could be dangerous.

Prosecutors insist that Oakes killed with premeditation. They have noted that about an hour before he went to Stover’s home, he went to a nearby Walmart, where surveillance video captured him buying anchor line, ankle weights and a camouflage sweatsuit.

Oakes said he thought he might need to escape from Stover and his protection dog by running through the woods from Stover’s home to a water tower. He testified that he planned to put the camouflage sweats on before he dashed into the woods.

He planned to affix the weights to the anchor line so that he could toss it up to reach the water tower’s ladder, he said.

Several witnesses have testified that they smelled a strong odor of bleach in the downstairs washroom, but Oakes insisted he never used bleach or tried to clean up after the shooting.

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