Opening statements start attempted murder trial |

Opening statements start attempted murder trial

In an opening statement lasting more than an hour Tuesday morning, the prosecution in the case against accused attempted murderer Fred Engel presented video of the defendant filling four gas cans with gasoline 40 minutes before his alleged victim’s home went up in flames.

“The only intent Engel could have had was to kill Ms. Wallace,” said Assistant District Attorney Ron Wolfson. “Through the grace of God and the trauma team, her life was saved.”

Engel is charged with six felony counts, including attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, burglary, arson and two counts of animal cruelty.

He pleaded innocent last August by reason of insanity.

In court Tuesday, Wolfson played surveillance video from the Flyers gas station on Brunswick and Sutton Way showing Fred Engel filling the cans and placing them in the trunk of his mother’s red Ford Mustang at 2:36 a.m. May 7, 2005.

Susan Wallace’s Nevada City home was set ablaze 40 minutes later, according to testimony from Wallace’s neighbor, who also said Wallace, bleeding profusely from knife wounds to her neck and abdomen, clearly announce that “The man who cleaned my carpets” was the man who tried to kill her.

Engel’s former employer also confirmed that Engel did clean Wallace’s carpets one week before the attack.

In an opening statement lasting 20 minutes, defense attorney Stephen Munkelt urged the jury of seven men and five women to ask themselves if evidence proved Engel made a deliberate and premeditated decision. He also painted a picture of his client as a delusional, mentally unstable man who was not behaving rationally for before the crime.

Prior to his arrest, he said, his client had no criminal record.

“He was a passive, peaceful young man,” Munkelt said. “In the months leading up to the event, he was doing and saying strange things.”

He said Engel told people he thought people were after him and wanted to kill him, and complained to his family that video surveillance equipment had been installed in his bedroom light fixture.

“What was he thinking,” Munkelt told the jury to ask themselves. “Did he intend to commit a felony?”

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