Snohomish County prosecutor Jacqueline Lawrence makes her opening statements Friday during the murder trial of Jamel Alexander in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Snohomish County prosecutor Jacqueline Lawrence makes her opening statements Friday during the murder trial of Jamel Alexander in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

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Trial begins for Everett man accused of stomping woman to death

Jamel Alexander, 31, is accused of first-degree murder in the death of Shawna Brune, 29, of Everett.

EVERETT — A man accused of viciously stomping a woman to death conceded he paid her $100 for sex hours before her body was found, but he maintains he did not kill her, his attorneys said in court Friday.

A Snohomish County jury will decide if Jamel Alexander, 31, of Everett, killed Shawna Brune in 2019.

Defense attorney Kenneth Williams argued race played a role in the homicide investigation and Alexander’s arrest, because he is a Black man accused of killing a white woman.

“They have tunnel vision on this Black man, and they are going to put him away,” Williams told the jury Friday in his opening statement. “The police wouldn’t listen to him, but hopefully you will listen to me.”

The defendant’s counsel attempted to screen potential jurors for race-related bias before opening statements, asking them to disclose any experiences they’ve had with Black people that would influence their judgment. The defense urged the jury pool to consider the case in the context of recent national news, including the murder trial of Minneapolis ex-police officer Derek Chauvin.

“You’re probably not going to sit on any trial more important than this,” defense attorney Rachel Forde told jurors Wednesday.

On the morning of Oct. 12, 2019, a man walking his dog found Brune, 29, dead in the woods with her clothes torn off, near a parking lot in the 11600 block of Highway 99, according to charging papers. She’d been beaten and stomped so severely that deputies wrote that the attack appeared to be “overkill.” Shoe prints marked her body in a crosshatch pattern. Brune, of Everett, was nude. An autopsy showed she’d suffered broken facial bones, swelling of the brain and her skin had been gouged with thorns, according to a report by Snohomish County Medical Examiner Dr. J. Matthew Lacy.

Convenience store security footage from the night of Oct. 11, 2019, showed Alexander walking into a gas station 1½ miles north of the crime scene at 9:54 p.m., court papers say. He glanced up at the cameras before he looked down at one of his shoes — a Vans Old Skool sneaker with a crosshatch tread. It appeared to have a red stain on the sole. He lifted his foot to get a closer look.

Williams argued his client would not have remained calm when noticing the stain, if he was guilty.

“This is America in 2021. Everybody knows that there are video cameras everywhere,” he said. “Does he run? No. What does he do? He investigates further: What is this stuff on my shoe?”

The defendant told police he paid Brune for sex.

Security footage showed Brune going into the woods near the Cedar Creek apartment complex down the street at 9:02 p.m. with a man in a maroon Puma jacket and knit cap with an Oakland Raiders logo. The pair walked down the driveway to the south side of the parking lot and disappeared behind a parked van, out of sight of the camera, according to court documents.

“While we don’t know exactly what occurred, the evidence at the scene illustrated an extreme act of violence and carnage beginning at the blackberry bushes that were located right next to the van,” deputy prosecutor Jacqueline Lawrence told the jury in her opening statement.

Thirty-one minutes later, the man re-emerged from the woods without his cap.

A swab from the cap, found at the crime scene, tested as an apparent DNA match for Alexander.

The defendant told police Brune was “alive, kicking and breathing” when he left, according to court papers.

Alexander told police that Brune sat down on a curb after the encounter. According to Alexander, she offered him drugs, but he refused and walked away.

The defendant’s criminal record out of California revealed he’d been jailed for participating in a street gang, assault with a weapon, assault on a school employee, second-degree robbery and carjacking, as well as nonviolent crimes, according to court records. It appeared he moved to Everett around 2016.

Williams urged the jury to separate their perception of Alexander’s character from the facts of the homicide.

“Now at this point you’re probably thinking, I don’t like Jamel.” Williams told the jury. “Yeah, on this night in question, Jamel stepped out on his girl. It happened, there’s nothing we can do to cover that up. It happened, all right? But the fact that he has committed infidelity has nothing to do with this case.”

Alexander is on trial for first-degree murder.

Witness testimony is scheduled to continue Monday.

Ellen Dennis: 425-339-3486; edennis@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @reporterellen

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