MICHIGAN CITY – As the jury trial wrapped up Wednesday in the voluntary manslaughter case against a Long Beach man accused of killing his wife in 2012, the state indicated it may also pursue a lesser charge of reckless homicide.
Defense attorneys for John B. Larkin requested some time to look into the matter, but indicated they likely will object when the case returns to La Porte Superior Court 1 at 8:30 a.m. Thursday.
The state rested mid-morning Wednesday, after calling Indiana State Police forensic firearms examiner Melissa Oberg and now-retired Long Beach Police Lt. Todd Bullis to testify.
Oberg’s testimony was straightforward. She was tasked with determining whether two cartridge cases and two bullets found at the scene of 41-year-old Stacey Renee Simon Larkin’s death were fired from the Larkins’ gun. She said they were.
And she was to determine whether the weapon malfunctioned by firing when the safety was activated. She said it did not.
Oberg also examined the sweater Stacey had been wearing when she was shot, and determined that at least one of the two shots was fired “at or near contact” with that garment.
Bullis’ testimony was more complicated.
The former police officer, who retired in March, accidentally recorded himself in January 2013 talking with another Long Beach officer about the possibility of influencing the testimony of a Michigan City Police officer who encountered an allegedly suicidal Stacey six months prior to her death.
Bullis and special prosecutor Stanley Levco chalked up the content of that accidental recording to “locker room talk.”
But defense attorney Dorothy Maryan questioned whether the former cop ever approached the case with an open mind, or whether he had decided her cleint’s guilt without first investigating and analyzing the evidence.
“I would say I’ve come to a conclusion,” Bullis said Thursday.
Then Maryan read the transcript of the accidental recording, quoting Bullis: “He caused her death purposefully. I mean, somewhere along the line, he’s paying for it.”
At the time he said it, Bullis had not yet interviewed the Larkin children, friends or family of the Larkins, or anyone who had seen or encountered Stacey the day she died.
He also had not yet investigated John’s claim that Stacey had been suicidal in the months leading to her death, nor did he review the 150 pages of her medical records tendered to him.
Additionally, Bullis had not looked into Stacey’s July 2012 arrest for domestic battery against John; neglect in the case of the Larkins’ eldest child; and operating while intoxicated.
After the state rested, the defense called three witnesses: John’s sister and the two of the Larkins’ four children.
Dorothy Carroll, John’s sister, testified that the day she brought her brother home from the La Porte County Jail after he posted bond in the voluntary manslaughter case was one of only three times in her life she could recall seeing him cry.
Carroll estimated she'd known Stacey for more than 12 years at the time of the shooting. And in the months leading up to it, she said, Stacey’s demeanor had changed. She described her as “strange,” “angrier,” “out-of-it” and prone to “emotional outbursts.”
Kate Larkin, now 20, also testified about the months leading up to her mother’s death, recounting Stacey’s alleged depression, alcohol abuse, prescription medications, fits of rage and threats of suicide. As the eldest child, she said, she often played the role of her mother’s therapist and her siblings’ caretaker.
She was composed throughout her testimony, becoming emotional only when remembering the looks on her siblings’ faces when they were told their mother had died.
Kate was the only Larkin child to see their mother dead, she said. At the time of the shooting she was in the shower. On her way to get her undergarments, she passed the closet inside which Stacey Larkin was seated and slumped in the corner – a position the young woman re-enacted for the jury.
An image that continues to stick with her, Kate said, her mother’s skin was pale, her eyes and mouth open – it was apparent she was dead.
John Larkin, she said, had cuts on his face and was on the phone.
Quinn Larkin, now 17, also recalled her mother as having been “agitated,” “sad,” and “depressed” in her final months, and said she appeared to be so on the evening she died.
According to Quinn, she and her father were seated at the family computer when Stacey stormed past and into the bedroom closet. Quinn said she went to check on her mother, but John told her to go in the other room while her parents talked.
She estimated about 10 minutes passed before her father came out in a panic, telling the children to go to the neighbor’s house. Kate, who had just gotten out of the shower, joined the three younger children there.
Both girls testified that during the time they were at the neighbors’ house, everyone was confused as to what had happened. They saw an ambulance pull up to their house; but it wasn’t until a police officer, their priest and their school principal rang the doorbell that they were notified.
The Larkin children continued to live with the neighbors for the next several months, and remained unaware of exactly how their mother died until they were interviewed by Bullis, the girls said.
Both Kate and Quinn recalled Bullis as having introduced himself to the children, then telling them their father had intentionally shot their mother and would be going to jail for a long time.
Kate said she assumed initially that her mother had died of a seizure, as she'd had one that put her in the hospital a few months before. However, after learning Stacey had been shot, she assumed it had been a suicide.
To this day, Kate said, she not discussed the specifics of what happened inside the closet on Dec. 11, 2012, with her father.
Quinn said she has asked her dad what happened, and that it’s her understanding it was her mother who initially retrieved the gun, and it was fired during a struggle.
Both girls told the court they do not believe their father shot their mother intentionally.
If John Larkin is convicted of voluntary manslaughter, he could face 20-50 years in prison. If convicted of the lesser included charge of reckless homicide, the sentence would be significantly smaller.