According to witnesses, on Jan. 25, 2008, Robert Dunn walked into the day care where his estranged wife worked, and shot her to death in front of the children she cared for. Louise Zoller wrested the firearm away from him, but not until fatal shots had been fired. An injunction had been previously entered against Mr. Dunn, prohibiting him from contacting the ex, Bobbie Noonan, or to go to her place of employment.
The state is seeking the death penalty in his first degree murder case, which is set for trial this week. Trial call is on Monday, which will be a preliminary hearing to see if there’s any reason the trial shouldn’t proceed, probably on Tuesday. There’s always the possibility of a last-minute continuance, but buzz around the courthouse is that the case should begin on Tuesday with Jury selection, and last at least until next week.
In a fascinating peek into the Defense planning for the case, Mr. Dunn filed a motion to have his attorney removed from the case. That’s not unusual, but what is unusual is that his motion described his theory of the case. According to Mr. Dunn, he was unloading the weapon (making it safe) when Ms. Zoller took it and accidentally killed Ms. Noonan. This is rather far-fetched. Dunn’s attorney David Brener apparently declined to proceed under this theory of defense, and according to Dunn, admonished him for wanting to go after “the hero.” In spite of Mr. Brener’s wise counsel, Dunn wished to proceed under that theory, and tried to have Brener taken off the case in order to do so. His request was denied at hearing.
While the motion will not prevent Mr. Brener from proceeding on a more logical defense theory, it will prevent Mr.Dunn from taking the stand and trying to tell a different story, now that he has given his version of events. He could try to change the story, but he will have zero credibility. Such are the difficulties of “allegedly” being caught red-handed after committing a crime in front of multiple witnesses. This may not be a case where Dunn has a shot at getting off, and it may take an exceptional effort by Brener to keep his client out of the electric chair, as the case is strong. Perhaps a lesser-charge can be obtained, but it certainly looks like premeditated murder when if he obtained a weapon, went to her place of work when he wasn’t allowed to go there, and blew her away. Mr. Dunn’s iffy mental state will certainly be an issue, if not for guilt, then for mitigation at the death-penalty stage of the case, if it goes that far.
Crimcourts will have updates as the case progresses. The last couple of times the State has sought the death penalty in the 20th Circuit, they were able to convict the Defendants (Fred Cooper in the Gateway murders, Kemar Johnson in the Cash Fienz murders, and the Justin Grodin baby murder) of First Degree Murder, but were unable to secure death sentences. The last death penalty handed down in Lee County was Mark Twilegar in 2007. #robertdunn