Pond Road is a relatively remote neighborhood — people know each other, try to be neighborly and, because it's a dead-end road, generally know what's happening around their woodsy properties outside of Frenchtown.
So it was especially notable to Mark McNerney and his neighbors when a certain stench hung in the air following a bonfire at Caressa Hardy's nearby home in March 2013.
"It was absolutely rank, unlike anything I've ever smelled," McNerny said from a witness stand Wednesday. "It wasn't wood-like, it wasn't garbage-like. We just looked at each other like 'Oh, my God, what in the hell is that?'"
Hardy is accused of killing two men, Thomas Korjack and Robert Orozco, that same month and burning their bodies in a fire pit behind the home where all three of them, along with a woman and two children, lived together. Karen Jill Hardy, Caressa Hardy's former partner and mother of their three children, testified on Tuesday she was in the room when Hardy shot and killed Korjack and Orozco.
Hardy then reportedly dragged some things from that bedroom, including the mattress and some other items, out to a fire pit behind the home. Other neighbors who testified on Wednesday also remembered the distinct and nose-crinkling smell.
"Whatever was burning in the fire just lingered for the week, it reeked through our street," Pam Labonte said. "It just kind of stuck in your nose."
Labonte and her husband first met Hardy after the snow cleared in early 2013, she said. Hardy, Orozco, Korjack, Karen Hardy and her children had moved in sometime during the winter. Labonte said after that bonfire in March 2013, the only person they ever saw on the property again was Hardy and his daughter.
Still, Labonte and her husband wanted to help the single parent, so they helped out as much as they could when Hardy asked for an extra pair of hands, she said. Hardy wanted to build more fencing and renovate some parts of the home. Labonte was at the home one time after that fire when she noticed Hardy's dog, a very small dog, carrying a rather large bone, "like a deer leg bone," she said. Hardy appeared to get agitated that the dog had the bone, and tossed the bone into the garbage can.
Labonte also noticed surveillance cameras set up around the property and the extensive measures Hardy took to ensure each door was locked at all times.
"It's not that kind of neighborhood," Labonte said. "You don't have to be that paranoid."
Much of the testimony in Day Two of the prosecution's case was spent painting a picture of the two men, whose remains have not been officially recovered. Bone fragments were recovered from the fire pit, but they were too badly burnt to extract a DNA sample. Hardy's defense, meanwhile, contests that Korjack and Orozco both had the means and motives to migrate off the grid.
Orozco met Monica Yamaguchi in Wyoming in 2008, and had a child with her in 2010.
"He loved his daughter, he really did," Yamaguchi testified Wednesday. "I never would have tried to keep her from him, but he made the mistake of trying to keep her from me."
Days before their daughter's second birthday, she said Orozco decided he was going to keep their daughter (the couple were no longer together at that point). Yamaguchi went to his house the day after the girl's birthday, waited until Orozco's new girlfriend was out of the doorway and fled with her daughter. An angry voicemail on her phone from Orozco was the last time she heard his voice.
In Wyoming, a parent cannot sue for custody of a child without also seeking child support, Yamaguchi said. She was given full custody and as of three years ago, Orozco owed her $25,000 in child support. This opened some room for Hardy's defense theory, that Orozco had fled child support payments, which, according to Yamaguchi, he owed in Wyoming, Idaho and Arizona.
But in 2014, after Yamaguchi unblocked Orozco on social media sites, she saw a strange message posted to his Facebook page.
"They didn't sound anything like him and I don't believe they were him," she said.
A dear friend of Orozco's had commented under the post, something along the lines of "How have you been?" The comment was left without response, which stirred some doubt in Yamaguchi.
"Rosco (her nickname for Orozco) was many things, but he loved (his friend)," she said Wednesday.
Korjack, about 15 years earlier, had been a successful engineer working for a U.S. Army base in Maryland and working part-time as a professor for the University of Maryland. His son, Stanley Maczek, testified Friday that during that time, his father was extremely "high functioning" and "had a really good outlook for a career."
But as Maczek grew into a teenager and better able to assess his father's actions, he saw Korjack engaging in some troublesome behavior.
"Occasionally we'd go into a store and he would steal something," he said.
Korjack helped his son with math homework, threw a baseball around with him and generally was good father, Maczek said. But as time went on, his parents started talking more and more about the IRS. As those conversations became more frequent, his father took on more of a "me against the world," attitude, Maczek said. Korjack owed the IRS $100,000.
In 1999, Korjack picked his family up and decided to head for the Canadian border, supposedly on his way to Alaska. But they never crossed into Canada; Maczek said they were held at the border for a day and his father was taken into custody shortly after.
Maczek ultimately left his family behind, moved to Wyoming, enrolled in college and changed his name. He is now a captain the U.S. Air Force dealing with space operations.
Prior to heading for the Canadian border, Maczek said his father had talked about moving to other countries, and watched TV shows about alternate identities. During the investigation of this case, Maczek told detectives his mother believed the whole thing might be staged as a route to escape the eye of the federal government.
But Maczek said Wednesday he did not believe his father had the necessary skill set to vanish. However, Maczek said that the year Korjack spent in federal prison certainly jacked up his grudge with the government.
"His time in prison, unfortunately, was not a rehabilitation period," Maczek said. "It only fueled him."
In addition to the idea that Korjack simply went off the map is another point not mentioned throughout the case: There's been no death certificate issued for Korjack, due to the deteriorated state of the remains found on Hardy's property.
"My mom inquired about that," Maczek said. "It would be good to have closure. If someone's been killed, it would be nice to know it's official."
Following Tuesday's testimony by Karen Hardy, Caressa Hardy's former partner, the defense's cross-examination Wednesday appeared largely to be an exercise in what Karen Hardy could not remember. She offered little insight into details pertinent to the defense, such as Korjack's financial situation, but also couldn't say what year her children were born, or which year the alleged shooting took place.
Britt Cotter, lead defense attorney for Hardy, especially honed in on the fact that while Karen Hardy reported her former partner kept her in captivity after the killings, she still had access to a phone, internet, neighbors and vehicles.
"We have witnesses to say they were seen together and did not seem afraid," Cotter said in his opening statements on Tuesday. "Was this a secret or was something else going on?"
Caressa Hardy is charged with two counts of deliberate homicide and two counts of solicitation of murder for allegedly asking multiple inmates at the Missoula County jail to kill Karen Hardy.
The trial, scheduled for two weeks, continues Thursday.