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Bradley Aue murder trial begins with opening statements, 911 tape, body camera video and expert witnesses

by Tracy McCue, Sumner Newscow — A Sumner County jury convened for day one of the Bradley Aue murder trial at the Sumner County District Courthouse today.

Aue, 32, of Wellington is accused of second-degree murder of the May 24, 2018 death of Sierra Craft, also of Wellington.  He is accused of intentionally, but not deliberately, killing his live-in girlfriend Craft at his home on 1002 South F Street by “striking her multiple times causing severe blunt force injuries including a nasal fracture, severe black eyes, multiple abrasions and contusions to her head, trunk and extremities.”

Today was a full day for the 12 jurors and one alternate who convened and heard explosive testimonies, the 911 phone call tape, graphic picture of the Craft’s autopsy, and 34-minute video footage from Wellington Police Department officer Matt Nelson’s body camera during the initial call on that Thursday evening.

Aue is being accused of pushing Craft from a window causing “lacerations throughout her body including sharp force injuries to her right arm including a severed artery” that led to her death. He is also accused of failing to “timely obtain immediate medical treatment for the multiple injuries she obtained.” (See the original story here)

The courtroom was packed for the initial day, as families from both the accused and the victim were in attendance. Aue was wearing a white collared shirt and striped necktie.

Sumner County attorney Kerwin Spencer opened the proceedings this morning in front of a new jury that was selected among more than 50 jurors during a full day of jury selection on Tuesday.

Spencer in his opening statement provided the jurors a synopsis of what occurred at 7:47 p.m. on May 24, more than 14 months ago, and how Wellington police officers and the Wellington Fire/EMS had arrived to discover a naked woman lying unresponsive on the couch in the living room of a small blue house, with what appeared to be severe lacerations, bruises, and contusions throughout her body.

He also provided information about Aue and his conduct that day. There was a small boy at the residence at the time of the alleged murder who was taken into custody. He then provided the jurors with a preview of the trial ahead and people who were going to testify in the prosecution’s case against Aue.

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Chrystal Krier, Aue’s court-appointed attorney, then addressed the jurors and told a significantly different story of what happened that early evening. She said that Aue and Craft had a toxic relationship. They drank a lot and would commonly fight. Still, they continued to live together and raise their 4-year-old son.

She said during the night of Craft’s death, the two had gone to Dillons but made a horrible mistake and stopped at a liquor store to buy a pint of vodka. When they brought it home, they shared the bottle and became intoxicated. Craft’s blood-alcohol level was at .273. Krier said she also smoked marijuana that evening which added to her intoxication.

The two began to fight, Krier told the jury, and eventually, a window was broken.

But this was when the story veered severely in another direction from the prosecution’s version. Krier said Craft had left the premises but returned through a broken window that had a brick nearby. She said habitually when the two fought, he would kick her out, but she would always return to the small blue house they lived in.

She climbed through the window back inside the house and at the time cut her right arm on the broken glass. Craft was so intoxicated, Krier said, she didn’t know her arm was cut.

Aue, who was extremely intoxicated as well, did not notice she was bleeding and did not act with a sense of urgency. Unfortunately, Craft had cut the main artery in her arm and would bleed to death.

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Ashley Hilton, the Sumner County 911 Supervisor for the second shift, took the stand and reviewed what happened when Aue and his neighbor had called the 911 office at 7:49 p.m. The jurors then heard the 911 tape in which audio determined that Aue was clearly emotionally shaken but did not know for sure whether or not Craft was still alive. Hilton said she dispatched both the law enforcement and ambulance thereafter.

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Nelson then took to the stand. He said he was working a “Click it or Ticket” station at the time when the 911 call came in. He then was dispatched to the South F residence which was near the south Co-op elevator, south of the tracks.

When he arrived he saw Aue on the front step wearing a pair of white shorts and no shirt, socks or shoes. Blood was all over him. He then walked in and saw a nude female, who was lying face-up on the couch with her knees bent and significant blood around her.

Nelson said assistant fire chief Vic Sandell said there was a small child in the adjacent room. Nelson went into the child’s bedroom and told him to cover his eyes and carried him out to the police car. He would then put the boy in the backseat of the car with his dog, who had been running around aimlessly in front of the house. He also provided the boy with a stuffed bear.

He then wanted Aue to join the child by the police car, but Aue was being belligerent at the time, Nelson said. He refused handcuffs and wanted to make a phone call. Nelson said on the witness stand, he allowed Aue to make a phone call using his phone so he could get him out of the house. Aue called his sister, Brandy Peterson, with a short “get over here” response. As he left, Aue wanted to wash his face, but Nelson would not let him.

Aue then sat down on the gravel road near the house and joined his son who got out of the police car. He told him, “Boy this is crazy, isn’t it?”

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With Nelson still on the witness stand, Spencer introduced his body camera video into evidence. Jurors would then see 34 minutes of footage in which Nelson started driving to the residence and his interaction with Aue during the initial stages of the investigation. The video showed Aue to be intermittently cooperative and belligerent. At one point in the video, Aue was being wrestled by two WPD police officers because he was refusing to be handcuffed.

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Dr. Tim Gorrill, a forensic pathologist from Pittsburgh, Penn., then took the witness stand. Assistant county attorney Mitch Spencer introduced 22 pictures of Craft’s body during the autopsy. The pictures were considered graphic by many and included pictures of the various bruises, contusions and abrasions across her naked body. Several of Craft’s family members had to emotionally leave the courtroom.

Using an overhead projector, jurors were shown an initial photo of Craft’s overall upper body which showed huge bruises on her face, upper and lower torso, and arms. The second picture showed the lower half of her body. The other pictures showed individual body parts.

Perhaps, one of the keys to this court proceedings is what actually caused Craft’s death. Gorrill said three abrasions on the right arm were probably the cause of her death and that the other bruises and contusions, although very graphic, amounted to scrapes caused by brute force and probably did not lead to her death.

But Gorrill cautioned that the severed artery is all in the context of the overall condition of Craft’s body.

During cross-examination, Krier asked whether she would have lived without the arm lacerations, Gorrill said: “yes, probably.” Conversely, Mitch Spencer asked if she just had the lacerations on the arm and nothing else, could she have lived with timely medical attention. Gorrill said, “it was possible.”

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The final witness of the day was Lisa Marie Burdett, a forensic scientist for the Kansas Bureau of Investigation. She testified that samples were taken from Craft’s hiking boots, Wrangler jeans, Aue’s white shorts, and Craft’s shorts for DNA testing. She said tests revealed that blood samples were those matching the DNA of Aue and Craft. She said the chances of it being anybody other than them was one in a quadrillion.

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The jury was excused at 4:30 p.m. wrapping up almost six hours of testimony. The trial will reconvene at 9 a.m. Thursday.

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