MISSOULA — Diren Dede, the 17-year-old German foreign exchange student who was shot to death late last month, was reportedly looking for an alcoholic beverage when he wandered into a garage in Missoula’s Grant Creek neighborhood.
He had never been in Markus Kaarma’s garage until just after midnight on April 27, said an Ecuadorian exchange student who was with Dede that night. Seconds later, he lay dying on the cement after Kaarma fired four shots into the darkened garage.
An amended affidavit filed by Deputy Missoula County Attorney Andrew Paul late Monday said two of the shots struck Dede – in the head and arm.
Kaarma, 29, is charged with deliberate homicide. His attorney said the former firefighter will enter a not guilty plea.
According to the new, 19-page charging document, Missoula City Police officers J. Jones and Mike Colyer arrived at the Deer Canyon Court residence at 12:23 a.m. Kaarma was standing outside the garage, looking “unusually calm given the situation.”
Jones asked Kaarma who shot the person inside the garage.
“Me,” Kaarma allegedly said.
“You?” Jones asked.
“Yep,” Kaarma allegedly replied.
Kaarma later said that he never saw the teenager with his own eyes until his wife turned the lights on.
On the floor, Dede laid in Janelle Pflager’s arms, “wheezing,” the affidavit said. A 9-1-1 dispatcher directed her in administering aid to the dying boy, while Kaarma went inside the house to grab a T-shirt before going back outside to direct police.
Prosecutors allege Kaarma and Pflager set a trap for intruders who had burglarized the home twice before in the weeks prior to the shooting. But Dede was not responsible for those burglaries. Police have since interviewed two other teenagers who confessed to those crimes.
The 16-year-old and 18-year-old males told officers they took a black wallet with credit cards, an iPhone, a blue and pink wallet with credit cards, a marijuana grinder, a marijuana bong, and a jar of marijuana from Kaarma’s garage and unlocked cars in the driveway. Their names have not been released and it’s unknown if charges will be filed against them.
According to the affidavit, the teens denied any connection to Dede or Robby Pazmino, the Ecuadorian foreign exchange student who was with Dede on the night of his death. Pazmino has since returned to his home country.
Paul Ryan, Kaarma’s attorney, said the charging document mischaracterizes Kaarma’s reaction in the moments after police arrived at the scene. Kaarma actually collapsed onto a police vehicle in shock, he said.
“He was shaking so bad,” Ryan said. “He couldn’t hardly stand.”
He added that Kaarma feels terrible that “someone was killed.” He said Kaarma was wearing only pajama bottoms when he shot the teen and disputed the prosecution’s contention that his client planned to shoot any intruder.
The amended affidavit says Pazmino and Dede decided to go for a walk in the neighborhood. When Dede saw the partially open garage, he decided to enter the residence alone.
Pazmino stood in the middle of the street and heard an unfamiliar voice say, “I see you there,” the affidavit stated. He started to run away after he heard the first shot and continued to hear gunshots as he raced toward the home of Randy Smith and Kate Walker Smith – Dede’s host parents.
Both host parents arrived at the scene shortly after Dede had been taken to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead. They lived just a few doors away.
Pazmino, who was twice interviewed by Missoula police, assumed that Dede was looking for an alcoholic beverage when he entered the garage, the affidavit said.
He told officers the boys learned about “garage hopping” or “garage shopping” from Missoula teens and had participated with friends three or four times in the past. But he denied taking any items from Kaarma’s garage, the affidavit stated.
Normally, he said, he and Dede opted to stay in the car while other local teenagers searched for alcohol inside people’s garages. Dede was enrolled as a junior at Big Sky High School.
Prosecutors claim Kaarma and Pflager concocted a plan to catch the intruders in the act of burglarizing their home. They ensnared them, fully intending to shoot them, the affidavit stated.
During the first burglary, the intruders had “cleaned out” Kaarma’s stash of marijuana and marijuana paraphernalia. The couple initially thought Kaarma had misplaced the items and didn’t call police to report the stolen drugs.
The second burglary – when the intruder took a credit card and used it to purchase gas and food – was reported to the Missoula police and assigned to a detective days prior to the fatal shooting.
The couple was frustrated about what they perceived to be a lack of response from law enforcement.
Kaarma allegedly told a hairdresser several days before the shooting that police were “baiting him into killing these kids,” the affidavit said.
He told the hairdresser that he was tired because he had been up the last three nights, “waiting with his shotgun for some kids to come back into his garage again.”
The hairdresser later told police Kaarma was not just venting, he was angry.
“And I’m not (expletive) kidding, you’ll see this on the (expletive) news,” Kaarma said when the appointment was over. “I’m going to (expletive) kill ’em.”
The conversation was overheard by another hairdresser who told police the man had been going to the salon for years and always seemed “angry at the world.” The hairdresser added she was afraid of Kaarma.
In the days prior to Dede’s death, the couple installed two motion sensors and a monitor that sent a live video stream to their cell phones.
In an interview with police, Kaarma seemed to suggest that the entrapment was his wife’s idea.
Pflager was reportedly upset after the last two burglaries and “she had wanted to catch someone if they did it again,” Kaarma said.
He said his wife had purchased the surveillance equipment and had become “hyper-vigilant” much to his chagrin. Her persistence irritated him, the affidavit stated.
Kaarma allegedly told police that he thought the garage was closed while the couple enjoyed their Jacuzzi on the night of April 26. He allegedly said Pflager left the overhead door partially open to “entice the suspects” back into the garage. It wasn’t his idea, he told police.
“I want to close the garage,” he said. “I want to lock everything up.”
Pflager also allegedly left her purse in the garage “so they would take it.”
“Pflager believed that if someone stole the purse she would be able to give law enforcement a detailed list of what was stolen and her name would be on the stolen items,” the affidavit stated.
No charges have been filed against Pflager.
When Dede walked into Kaarma and Pflager’s garage shortly after midnight, the couple was alerted to his presence by the motion sensors and video feed.
Pflager allegedly told Kaarma to “get out there” and he grabbed the shotgun loaded with buckshot and exited the front door of the home.
He positioned himself between his Ford pickup truck parked in the driveway and his partially open garage, with his backside up against the truck’s grill.
The interior of the garage was masked in darkness and made worse when the outside lights were turned on, he later told the police. He thought he was going to die after he heard a “metal on metal” sound and assumed the intruder, who he described as a “caged animal,” had a knife or tool that could be used to hurt him.
Pflager remembers her husband saying “Hey, hey” before he chambered a round. He may have also said something along the lines of “hands up” or stand up.”
In the street, Pazmino heard Kaarma say, “I see you there.” Pflager then remembers Dede saying “hey” or “wait” in response.
Kaarma then fired four shots into the garage – hitting Dede’s head and his left arm with two of those rounds.
Pflager flipped on the garage lights, called 9-1-1, then administered aid to Dede.
Kaarma appeared in Missoula Justice Court on April 28 and was released from custody after posting a $30,000 bail. Neighbors and witnesses have since reported Kaarma was the instigator of several alleged road rage incidents in the neighborhood prior to the shooting.
On April 26, Kaarma was allegedly driving well-below the posted 25 mph speed limit on Prospect Lane in his gray pickup truck. The witness attempted to pass the truck, but Kaarma allegedly pulled his truck across the road – blocking the roadway.
The witness backed up and attempted to go around again, but the defendant allegedly jumped out of his truck and started yelling “gibberish” at the witness.
“The witness said that the defendant appeared disheveled, sloppy and unshaven,” the affidavit stated. “It appeared that the defendant looked ready to fight.”
Two other road rage incidences allegedly involving Kaarma occurred the same day, the affidavit stated, including one where a neighbor reported Kaarma appeared to be high or drunk.
Kaarma’s attorney, however, said his client’s apparent road rage was a manifestation of his mental state.
“It just goes to show what he was driven to after he was being terrorized in his own house,” Ryan said.
Kaarma and Pflager were frustrated with their inability to stop the burglaries, and the couple had become increasingly suspicious of those around them, Ryan said. Kaarma couldn’t sleep; he and Pflager believed their home was being singled out by the intruders.
Ryan also said that the case has had a “chilling effect” on Montana homeowners. Montana’s gun laws defend Kaarma's right to make the split-second decision to pull the trigger on an intruder, he said.
Homeowners don’t have to determine an intruder’s intent before shooting them, Ryan contended.
“You view it from a subjective standpoint, from the person who is using the justifiable force within their home,” he said.