Gaeta, Kalac murder trials pushed back to March, October

The trial dates of two high-profile Kitsap County murder cases have been pushed back, despite the judges’ reluctance to do so, to give the defense teams time to refine their strategies.

PORT ORCHARD — The trial dates of two high-profile Kitsap County murder cases have been pushed back, despite the judges’ reluctance to do so, to give the defense teams time to refine their strategies.

Gabriel Gaeta, then a 17-year-old senior at Olympic High School, was charged with the August 2014 murder and rape of 6-year-old Jenise Wright, who lived with her family near Gaeta. Wright was reported missing by her parents; her body was found four days later. DNA samples taken from Gaeta’s body matched samples taken from Wright.

The trial date for Gaeta was originally set for Oct. 10. On Friday, Judge Jennifer Forbes agreed to push the trial back to March 6. Gaeta’s lawyers plan to ask the District II Court of Appeals to issue a ruling on a state law, plus Judge Jennifer Forbes’ decision to uphold a law that allows for underage suspects to seek a sentence of no less than life imprisonment without possibility of parole.

Gaeta’s attorneys acknowledged that Forbes was not bound by the Court of Appeals’ decision. Gaeta’s attorneys had originally asked for a potentially lighter sentence of 25 years to life, which means that Gaeta could seek release after just 25 years.

Gaeta’s original court-appointed attorney, Ron Ness, died in August of natural causes, and second attorney Adrian Pimentel moved to the lead chair at the defense table.

David M. Kalac, 35, was arrested in November 2015 for the strangulation and murder of Amber Coplin, 30, his girlfriend at the time. Kalac then posted pictures of Amber’s body on a website. He fled to Portland, but returned just a day later to turn himself.

Kalac’s attorneys asked Judge Jeannette Dalton for a delay in the trial to give him the chance to develop a mental health defense, based on the premise the years of heavy alcohol use had contributed to Kalas’ mental disorder and his ability to grasp right from wrong. The trial date was moved from Sept. 19 to Oct. 31.


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