ALTUS - Millions of dollars are at stake in the wrongful death petition against Steven Kirk Carson, whose civil trial in the strangulation death of his wife Marsha in April 2001 is in its second week at the Jackson County Courthouse.
Marsha Carson's surviving children and plaintiffs in the case - Patrick Alan Cash, Dawn Yvette Craven and Babette Yvonne Rivera - contend that Kirk Carson killed his wife on April 10, 2001, at their home at 2601 Seminole Circle, because she was leaving the marriage. They are being represented by H. William McIntosh and Steven L. Hobson of The McIntosh Law Firm of Kansas City, Mo., and Cash's wife, Dawn Cash, of Oklahoma City.
The plaintiffs claim that they are entitled to recover a verdict for loss of financial support of contribution of money to the children; grief of the children of Marsha Carson; loss of companionship and guidance from Marsha Carson to the children; pain and suffering of Marsha Carson; and $6 million for wrongful death.
Kirk Carson is being defended by Altus attorneys Darrell E. Latham and David Thomas. The defense denies the plaintiffs' claims, contending the damages were caused by a third party over which Kirk Carson had no control and that punitive damages are improper and unconstitutional.
Associate District Judge David Barnett is presiding.
At around 11 p.m. that Tuesday, April 10, Kirk Carson placed a 9-11 call, and when police arrived they found him kneeling over the fully clothed body of his wife next to the swimming pool of their residence. Marsha Carson, according to the “General Statement of Facts” in the case, “was wet from head to toe and she was obviously dead. Her body was in full rigor mortis with her arms in a folded fashion approximately six inches above her body. An autopsy performed on April 11, 2001, by the Oklahoma State Medical Examiner found that Marsha Carson had been strangled and had died from either strangulation or from being strangled until she was unconscious and then placed in the water where she drowned. Her death was ruled a homicide.”
The autopsy determined that Mrs. Carson had sustained “other injuries indicative of a physical struggle,” to include a large bruise on her chest, a broken hyoid bone in her neck and bruising of her neck.
No criminal charges have ever been filed in the case.
Patrick Cash, who is the special administrator of his mother's estate, testified Wednesday that, at 33 years old, when the incident occurred, “It's not how I saw my life turning out ... or hers ... or my children.”
Under questioning by McIntosh, Cash said he was not consulted about the cremation of his mother's body, however he felt that it was her request.
Latham pressed Cash, the administrator of the estate, about how much his mother helped him financially while she was alive and questioned Cash's decision to stay in Oklahoma City for two days following a phone call from Kirk Carson at 6:15 a.m. April 11 informing him that he had found Marsha Carson in the swimming pool. Kirk Carson had been at the Altus Police Department the entire night after his 9-11 call until 5 a.m.
Cash testified that he told his wife, attorney Dawn Cash, about Carson's phone call as soon as he hung up the phone and that she contacted the District Attorney's Office here at 8 a.m. April 11 to arrange a meeting with District Attorney John Wampler.
“For all I know, Kirk did it,” Cash said.
Within two days of Marsha Carson's death, Patrick and Dawn Cash were planning a civil suit. “My wife put it to me that she would take care of it,” Cash said.
Dan Vogel, a consultant on violent crime and crime scene analysis, testified Wednesday for the plaintiffs saying that, consistent with the “Crime Classification Manual,” which he said is used by law enforcement agencies throughout the United States in the classification of homicides, and after reviewing the autopsy and photos as well as lab and investigative reports, the murder of Marsha Carson is a case of “domestic homicide with elements of staging.”
Vogel explained the process of “victimology,” or study of the victim's lifestyle and determining the risk for violent crime. He said that Marsha Carson's victimology showed a “very low risk” for violent crime and that his review of the case revealed that it was a domestic homicide. “It has to be someone very close to the person,” he said.
Among the indications supporting his opinion, Vogel said, Marsha Carson was at home when she was killed; she was killed in the home; there was no forced entry; nothing was stolen; she had bruises on her chest and arms, a broken hyoid bone and other bruises indicating a general escalation of violence; Kirk Carson was at the site when police arrived; Marsha Carson was in full rigor mortis when she was placed in the pool; the pool was dirty (Kirk Carson was cleaning the pool in a thunderstorm that night when he pulled his wife's body to the surface, according to testimony given by Dawn Craven); Marsha Carson was strangled; her body was found in the pool, which Vogel said was a staged event to make it appear that she had drowned; the couple were married; she was dead some six to seven hours before police were called; she had been strangled with a pair of hands; and that the bed was unmade.
Thomas questioned Vogel's credentials as well as the $4,300 he has been paid to date and the $1,500 he is to be paid for testifying in the case and grilled the plaintiffs' expert on his victimology report, which did not take into consideration that Marsha Carson regularly took early morning trips to Altus Air Force Base to exercise, that her daughter Babette Rivera and son-in-law Angel Rivera were arrested in October 2000 in Oklahoma County with a large amount of marijuana in a safe as well as a gun and that Angel Rivera, who is currently imprisoned at the William S. Keys Correctional Facility in Fort Supply, was already a convicted felon. “Does that go up on the violence meter?” Thomas asked.
Angel Rivera had pleaded guilty to forcing his way into the bedroom of his former wife and beating her with the butt and barrel of a shotgun.
Also, Thomas pressed Vogel on why he had not reviewed the surveillance tapes at Western Oklahoma State College, which showed Kirk Carson's comings and goings, nor did he consider that a student at the college, Bryan Fulton, had previously gained illegal entry to the Carsons' home to retrieve a vehicle. Carson later put a hold on Fulton's transcripts and statements to the police have shown that Carson and Fulton were enemies.
Also testifying under direct testimony for the plaintiffs on Wednesday was Dawn Craven, Marsha Carson's youngest daughter. Questioning of Craven by the defense was to begin at 9 a.m. today.