LA CROSSE, Wis. (WXOW) – Defense attorneys have successfully argued against allowing evidence from a cadaver dog to be heard by the jury in the October homicide trial of Erik Sackett.
He’s accused of killing Erin Somvilai in June 2018.
His trial is scheduled to start with jury selection on October 21.
Prior to the trial, there’s been several lengthy court hearings regarding what evidence to allow at trial.
One point of contention between the defense and prosecutors is cadaver dog evidence found in Sackett’s truck which investigators said tied him to Somvilai’s body. Her body was found in a Vernon County lake where authorities said she was placed after her death.
In a hearing on August 28, Sackett’s lawyer, Christopher Zachar, questioned whether there was potential for error in the way cadaver dogs are handled and trained.
Judge Elliott Levine said Wednesday morning at a hearing that he’s excluding the cadaver dog evidence and testimony. In his comments, Judge Levine said, in part, “Asserting something is scientific does not make it scientific. This evidence can be misleading.”
Sackett’s defense team also claimed that Somvilai’s doctor was involved in her death. They claimed that the family physician had an alleged inappropriate sexual relationship with her, he prescribed her drugs knowing she wasn’t stable and that his whereabouts when she went missing are suspicious.
Judge Levine said that the defense has enough evidence to support this claim at the upcoming trial.
“It may not be beyond reasonable doubt, but it’s definitely tendency to show that he had the opportunity to potentially commit the crime.” Judge Levine said. “Whether it is hiding a corpse, or committing the actual homicide.”
The defense also argued the doctor knew about Sackett’s cabin at the Vernon County lake–where Somvilai’s body was found–and that he intended to shift investigators focus on Sackett.
The District Attorney’s office said that the doctor’s relationship with Somvilai is irrelevant and that there is not any substantial evidence and no witnesses that indicated a motive for the doctor aside from Sackett.
Sackett remains jailed on a $1 million cash bond while awaiting next month’s trial on the First Degree Intentional Homicide charge.