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Sackett Trial Day 9: Watch closing arguments

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Jurors began deliberating the case around 11:15 a.m.

We will continue our live stream coverage when there is a verdict on WXOW-TV, WXOW.com, our news app, and on our Facebook page.

MORE: Erik Sackett Trial Coverage


Sackett's attorney Christopher Zachar began his closing by restating what he said at the beginning of the trial-that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

He said that prosecutors didn't do it. He said that prosecutors weren't able to show even how Erin died. Zachar reminded the jury that the medical examiner couldn't give any indication of how Erin Somvilai died. Dr. Ross Reichard, Zachar said, couldn't rule whether she died from an overdose, drowning, or suicide.

He went through the factors that he said pointed to Erin committing suicide. They included being rejected by Erik, her arrest a few days earlier, and the possibility of losing her children. He also said that Erin was abusing the medications she was taking. He stated that she wasn't in her right state of mind when she disappeared.

Zachar asked if Erin could commit suicide. He said, based on the evidence, absolutely.

He also pointed out that by using two blocks to weigh herself down would be the exact type of thing that Erin could have done. He said the evidence showed that she was found in a place, off the dock at Runge Hollow Lake, where she could have done this to herself.

He theorized the point that Sackett would have likely gone swimming in the lake in the days after Erin's disappearance. He told jurors that if that were the case, Sackett likely would have been the one to find her body after she killed herself.

As for La Crosse County District Attorney Tim Grueke's point about a lack of a vehicle at Runge Hollow Lake, Zachar faulted police for not checking for any alternate explanation. He said they didn't check with friends, Uber, or possibly hitched a ride. He said police proceeded forward on an assumption but didn't prove it.

He also refuted the prosecution's theory of the reason Sackett killed Somvilai to keep her from getting in trouble with his probation officer. He did so by showing jurors video from a June 8 police interview where he admitted to an investigator that he was in a relationship. Zachar pointed out that testimony from Sackett's probation officer showed she wasn't concerned with the relationship. Earlier testimony stated that Sackett, as part of his supervision, was required to tell his probation officer before getting into any relationship. Zachar finished his point by saying the prosecution's theory doesn't add up.

He also was critical of the police investigation that didn't examine any surveillance video after June 4 despite possible sightings of Erin.

Zachar brought up Somvilai's cat, Minnie. He showed jurors a photo from the neighbor's surveillance camera that allegedly showed the cat outside early in the morning of June 4. Zachar said that when Erin's father, Mark Bushek, went to Erin's apartment later in the day, the cat was inside. He theorized that the only person who would have let the cat back into the apartment was Erin. This counters the theory of prosecutors that she died late on June 3 or very early in the morning of June 4.

Zachar moved on to their alternative suspect, Dr. David Onsrud. He said Onsrud had a lot to lose given his sexual relationship with Erin. He also was critical of police investigators and said they didn't do the work looking into him as a suspect. They didn't look for a rope or any concrete blocks at his home. He said they didn't look into surveillance video that he said possibly showed a vehicle matching one owned by Onsrurd. He added that who would be better at killing someone without leaving a trace-a doctor with 30 years of experience or a construction worker. He said that it was telling that prosecutors didn't call Onsrud to testify to clarify what happened.

As he finished, he used a deck of cards to show the points of doubt in the state's case.

He ended by asking the jury to return a verdict of not guilty.


Prosecutors got the last word before jurors begin their deliberations.

District Attorney Tim Gruenke called Zachar's presentation of the case as "desperate" and a way to distract from the evidence.

He said Dr. Onsrud never lied to investigators about anything, unlike Sackett. He again pointed out Sackett's lies to police and lies to jurors during his testimony.

Gruenke said Sackett lied to try to help construct a story to fool jurors.

He finished by telling the jury that to let Sackett get away with homicide would be an injustice to Erin's family.

Judge Elliott Levine then gave a few more instructions to jurors then released them to go begin deliberations.


La Crosse County District Attorney Tim Gruenke began his closing argument by stating the trial "is about the truth."

He said prosecutors brought them the evidence to find Erik Sackett guilty of homicide in the death of Erin Somvilai.

He then said he was sorry that jurors didn't get to hear from Erin herself.

Gruenke said she didn't deserve to be disposed of like a piece of garbage in a lake. He painted a picture of Erin as a person who worked taking care of people, had two children, and was loved by her family despite her problems.

He then mentioned Sackett as a person who wanted sex without any emotional attachment. He also said Sackett was the one person in the case who distracted police.

Gruenke said clearly had problems with depression and threatened suicide. He used her text messages from June 3 to show that while she threatened suicide, he said that it wasn't unusual in that those threats were a way of her seeking attention and not serious threats to kill herself.

He mentioned that Erik wasn't truthful about the cabin where he and Erin spent time supposedly on June 3. Gruenke asked why would Sackett need to lie to the jury. He said Sackett testified that he and Erin went to Runge Hollow, talked about future plans, but calmed her down. He then said he went swimming. While swimming, he said Erin put rocks in her pockets and tried to kill herself. Gruenke questioned how she went from upset about the relationship, threatened suicide, to calm, then back to suicide. Gruenke finished his point by saying that Sackett never told investigators about the trip to the cabin during the course of the investigation.

He said innocent people don't act that way. He portrayed Sackett as someone who misled police during every step of the investigation.

Gruenke then told jurors about the timeline using text messages showing Erin's last text message came at 2:30 pm on June 3. Her last phone call to Dr. David Onsrud was at around the same time. Somvilai was seen around 6:30 pm by her neighbor. Gruenke said Sackett even admitted that he was the last person to see Erin.

Gruenke said Sackett blatantly lied to a police investigator about being at her apartment on Sunday. He said he lied to the police twice, her father, and her sister during the time between June 4 and the discovery of Erin's body on June 17.

Gruenke then returned to the defense theory that Erin committed suicide. He said that given her need for attention and previous threats, why would she go kill herself in a way that she wouldn't be found. He also pointed out that she would have to know there were concrete blocks at the cabin which is adjacent to the lake, plus go to the trouble of getting ropes to tie herself up.

He also pointed out that she didn't have any shoes or a vehicle to get to the lake in the first place.

Guenke also said that a block found at Sackett's home was similar, though not the same, to the ones found tied to Somvilai's body.

He concluded his closing by stating that the defendant is the only one who had means, motive, and opportunity. Sackett was the last person seen with her, and that only a guilty person would lie.

He finished by asking jurors to find Erik Sackett guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.


LA CROSSE, Wis. (WXOW) - Closing arguments are expected Thursday morning as the Erik Sackett homicide trial nears jury deliberation.

Sackett is on trial on a charge of 1st-Degree Intentional Homicide in the death in June 2018 of Erin Somvilai. Her body was found in Runge Hollow Lake in Vernon County weighted down with two concrete blocks tied to her.


MORE: Erik Sackett Trial Coverage


On Thursday morning, jurors started their day by receiving their final instructions for their deliberations which are scheduled to begin in the afternoon.

Judge Elliott Levine read off several pages of what jurors should consider when deciding the case.

Both the defense and prosecutors went over what those instructions will say Wednesday after rebuttal witnesses testified during a short court session on Wednesday.

Besides instructions, both the defense and prosecutors will make their closing arguments on whether Sackett committed the crime.


We will live stream the proceedings on WXOW.com, our news app, and our Facebook page.

We will be updating this story throughout the day. We'll also have updates on Midday, Live at Five, and the 6pm Report.

When a verdict is announced, we'll be broadcasting that on WXOW-TV, and our digital platforms.

Kevin Millard

Kevin Millard-Social Media Digital Content Manager for WXOW.

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