A courtroom full of more than 50 family and friends of Abigail Finney gathered to watch Eric A. Kulp’s first court appearance on Friday, May 18.
The San Juan County Prosecutor’s Office has charged the 44-year-old with unlawful imprisonment and murder in the second degree for the death of his wife, Finney, in November. Finney, 38, was found concealed in a minivan at the couple’s Shaw Island home on April 5. A determination of her cause of death will await the completion of a toxicology report and an autopsy by a medical examiner.
Kulp suffered serious self-inflicted knife wounds to his neck and abdomen during a brief standoff with police in the Marblemount area of Skagit County on April 13. Kulp was released from Harborview Medical Center on May 16. He has no previous criminal history according to court documents.
Superior Court Judge Katie Loring disclosed before the court that her previous law partner had represented the victim, Finney, five years ago, but that she did not believe that event would impact her ability to serve in the case.
Kulp was represented by public defender Colleen Kenimond, however, Kenimond will not be representing him in the future. Since murder cases tend to require a longer time period, they are not in Kenimond’s public defender contract. Loring explained that he has a right to hire a private attorney since Kenimond would not be representing him further. If he cannot afford one, a different public defense attorney will be provided for him.
The last murder case in San Juan County was handled by the Snohomish County Public Defender’s Office, according to San Juan County Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Teresa Bennett. No plea was entered, however, an arraignment hearing was set for June 1 at 9 a.m. According to Barnett, the goal is that Kulp would have an attorney by then and a plea can be entered.
The court upheld the prosecutor’s requested bail for $1 million for charges of murder in the second degree. For the charges of unlawful imprisonment, bail was set at $250,000. The court found that based on the alleged stand-off and other statements and actions during the time of Kulp’s arrest in April, Loring said there is reason to believe that the defendant may either commit a violent crime, seek to intimidate witnesses or unlawfully interfere with the administration of justice.
Kulp did not post bail and he will be transferred to Island County Jail in Coupeville. If he posts bail, Kulp is to remain in the San Juans unless he gets permission from the court. Loring asked if Kulp understood the charges and conditions, to which the defendant stated he did.
Heather Spaulding is a reporter for The Journal of the San Juans.