HELENA — On the second day of testimony in Journey Wienke’s trial for deliberate homicide, prosecutors called in witnesses who had been with him before and after a March 2018 double murder.
Wienke is the third and final suspect charged with deliberate homicide in connection with the deaths of David and Charla Taylor. The victims’ bodies were found in their home on Cayuse Road.
Among the witnesses called by the prosecution was Kaleb Taylor, the victims’ son, who already pleaded guilty last year to killing them. Taylor appeared by video from the Montana State Prison, where he is currently serving two consecutive life sentences for deliberate homicide.
Taylor told the court he went to his parent's home with Wienke and another man, Kyle Hamm. He said Hamm waited outside while he and Wienke went inside.
Taylor said he did not remember exactly where Wienke was, but he was not with him when he attacked his parents.
“I kind of remember going up the stairs and him being somewhere behind me, but after that I don’t really have any idea,” he said. “I imagine he was probably 10, 15 feet behind me.”
Taylor said he took full responsibility for his parent's deaths. He said he “snapped” before killing them, and that he did not remember many of the details of what happened.
Prosecutors raised several questions about Taylor’s testimony, including why he did not tell authorities Wienke had also been at the home when the murders took place.
Wienke is charged with two alternative counts of deliberate homicide in each victim’s death, and the jury will have to decide which, if either, to convict him on. One charge is that he directly participated in the murders, while the other is that he was responsible because he and Taylor planned to rob the home, and the deaths occurred in the course of that crime.
Wienke’s defense attorneys have argued there was never a plan to rob the home or to kill the Taylors, and Wienke had no knowledge of what was going to happen. Taylor testified he, Wienke and Hamm had not discussed a robbery or other crime.
In response to a defense question, Kaleb Taylor said he took jewelry and other items after the fact, to make the crime appear like a robbery. He said Wienke appeared to be in a state of shock after seeing what had happened.
“I remember kind of like screaming at him, telling him to do this or do that,” he said. “I don’t remember what ‘this’ or ‘that’ was, but along those lines of telling him to do things, and he just did it.”
Wienke is also charged with tampering with physical evidence. Prosecutors argue he helped Taylor wash off his clothes and the suspected murder weapons at a nearby car wash – and that he also washed his own shoes.
Taylor said he remembered that someone had washed him off at the car wash, but that he did not remember who it was.
Taylor previously testified in Kyle Hamm’s deliberate homicide trial earlier this month, but as a witness for the defense. Hamm was convicted of deliberate homicide, and is set to be sentenced in December.
On Tuesday, the court also heard from Lakota Salminen, who was then in a relationship with Wienke. She testified she and a cousin had been with the three suspects on the day of the murders, but that they were dropped off before the men went to the Taylors’ home.
Kaleb Taylor said Salminen had been dropped off because she had been arguing with Wienke, not because the three men were planning any illegal activity.
Salminen said Taylor later gave her some jewelry, which she then traded for money. Prosecutors argued that jewelry belonged to Taylor’s parents, and that he had taken it from the home. Salminen eventually reached an agreement with prosecutors and pleaded guilty to tampering with physical evidence.
Wienke’s trial is expected to continue for around a week.