MISSOULA — The Missoula County Attorney’s Office will file charges against an 18-year-old man accused of burglarizing the home of Janelle Pflager and Markus Kaarma several times prior to the night a German exchange student was shot to death in the couple’s garage.
Tristan Staber, who is now in jail for a probation violation, will be charged Thursday with conspiracy to commit burglary and is expected to appear in Justice Court, said Missoula Deputy County Attorney Jason Marks.
A second suspect involved in the burglary is a minor and his case will be handled in youth court.
Kaarma faces a felony charge of deliberate homicide for the shooting death of 17-year-old Diren Dede, who was reportedly searching for alcohol in the partially open garage in the early morning hours of April 27. However, he had no involvement in the earlier break-ins, police say.
It remains unclear whether charges will be filed against Kaarma’s wife, Pflager, but Deputy County Attorney Andrew Paul said prosecutors are considering the possibility.
“We have not made that determination yet,” Paul said Wednesday. “We haven’t decided whether or not charges would be appropriate.”
Paul didn’t indicate what the woman would be charged with — if prosecutors decide to pursue a case against her.
According to an amended 19-page affidavit filed in Missoula District Court Monday, Pflager had become hyper-vigilant after the Grant Creek residence was burglarized twice in the weeks preceding the fatal shooting.
Staber and his 16-year-old accomplice allegedly entered and burglarized the home on two prior occasions, prosecutors contend. During the first incident, the teenagers “cleaned-out” Kaarma’s stash of marijuana and marijuana paraphernalia. On the second occasion, the intruders took credit cards, an iPhone and several wallets.
“The defendant stated Pflager had been upset since the two previous incidents of theft had occurred and she wanted to catch someone if they did it again,” according to the affidavit filed in support of the deliberate homicide charge against Kaarma.
Pflager allegedly purchased and installed two motion sensors to detect an intruder’s presence in the garage or in the driveway. Kaarma told police that he had removed the sensors after his wife installed them, but she put them back in place.
Kaarma also told police he would have preferred to keep the garage door shut and the vehicle car doors locked, but on the night of April 26 “Pflager likely left the garage door partially open to entice the suspect(s) to come back inside the garage,” the affidavit stated.
“This isn’t something I initially wanted,” he told police. “I want to close the garage. I want to lock everything up.”
She also left her purse in the garage as “bait” for someone to take, the affidavit stated.
When the couple was alerted to Dede’s presence in the garage, Pflager allegedly told her husband to “get out there.” He grabbed the shotgun sitting in their dining room and exited the home through the front door.
Pflager initially told police that she was indoors putting her shoes on when Kaarma fired the first shot, but later said she was close behind Kaarma when he exited the front door. So close, in fact, she saw a darkened figure — Dede’s friend Robby Pazmino — run from the scene as her husband fired the first shot.
According to the affidavit, Kaarma fired a total of four shots into the darkness, with his backside up against a truck parked in the driveway. Two of those shots hit and killed Dede, a German exchange student studying for the year at Missoula’s Big Sky High School.
Pflager told police she called 911 and was talking to the dispatcher when she turned on the lights in the garage. For the first time, the couple saw Dede. He was “wheezing” — dying on the floor in a pool of his own blood.
Following the dispatcher’s instructions to put pressure on the wound, Pflager allegedly grabbed a pet pad to use as a compress and pressed it on the young man’s wounds.
According to Kaarma’s attorney, Paul Ryan, Pflager comforted Dede in her arms while he breathed his last breaths on the garage floor.
The following day, Pflager reportedly told a visiting neighbor she didn’t have to worry about the burglary problem anymore.
“Why, did the police catch him?” the neighbor asked.
“He’s dead,” Pflager allegedly said.
Missoula police, however, said they have since determined that Dede had no involvement in the earlier burglaries, and had never before been in Kaarma’s garage.
After allegedly admitting to burglarizing the home of Pflager and Kaarma, Staber and his companion denied having any connection to Dede or the Ecuadorian exchange student Pazmino, who had accompanied Dede on a walk around the neighborhood late that night.
Dede’s host family lived just a few houses away.
Attorney Ryan said he doesn’t know if the county attorney’s office will file charges against Pflager. If they do, he won’t be her attorney because that would create a conflict of interest with his representation of her husband.
He said that both Kaarma and Pflager feel terrible about what happened in their garage that night.