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Erik Sackett’s defense tries to get canine evidence barred from trial

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LA CROSSE, Wis. (WXOW) – Erik Sackett’s defense lawyer tried to get cadaver evidence removed from the upcoming homicide trial in the death of former girlfriend Erin Somvilai.

Prosecutors accuse the 38-year-old Sackett of killing 35-year-old Somvilai in June 2018.

Sackett’s lawyer Christopher M. Zachar suggested the way cadaver dogs are trained varies too much, and that when they actually find human remains, the details behind those finding are highly subjective. Zachar questioned Canine Search Solutions on how dog handlers said they found evidence of human remains on Sackett’s truck. He asked if handlers were aware law enforcement had previously speculated there was evidence on the truck or if it were possible the dogs smelled something else–falsely identifying it as human remains.

“Would you agree that human remains dogs can and do make mistakes?” Zachar asked Canine Search Solutions owner Carren Corcoran. “Yes,” Corcoran responded. To which Zachar followed up with, “Would you agree that human remains dogs do occasionally alert to locations where human remains are not present?”

“It’s possible, yes,” Corcoran answered.

Sackett’s defense also raised concerns that trainers can sometimes unknowingly give dogs certain cues–resulting in false findings. Additionally, they called into question if their training adequately prepares them to tell the difference between odors of someone alive or dead.

The courtroom closed before a decision to keep or toss the evidence was made. Judge Elliot Levine said he expects to make that call at the next motion hearing on September 4.

The trial is scheduled to start in late October. Sackett remains jailed on $1 million bond and faces life in prison if convicted.

MORE: Judge allows body cam video in Sackett homicide case

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Marcus Aarsvold

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