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Troxel trial opens with graphic photos, recorded interview with defendant

THIEF RIVER FALLS -- Jurors and family members saw autopsy photos of Tanya Kazmierczak's half-nude and stabbed body in the first day of testimony Tuesday in the murder trial of Jedidiah Troxel on charges that could send him to prison for life.

THIEF RIVER FALLS -- Jurors and family members saw autopsy photos of Tanya Kazmierczak's half-nude and stabbed body in the first day of testimony Tuesday in the murder trial of Jedidiah Troxel on charges that could send him to prison for life.

Troxel is accused of first-degree murder involving criminal sexual conduct in Kazmierczak's death. The trial began with Tanya's husband, Jeff Kazmierczak, taking the witness stand and ended with testimony from the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension investigator who arrested Troxel for his alleged crime.

Kazmierczak's children, Katelynn, 14, Matthew, 19, and Jordan, 21, were present for most of Tuesday's proceedings in Judge Donald Aandal's courtroom. Their presence came after their father's testimony and after Assistant Attorney General Eric Schieferdecker's opening statement to the jury of seven men and seven women.

His words were accompanied by autopsy photos that showed Kazmierczak's badly bruised face, and her chest that had been stabbed 11 times, including the fatal strike that punctured her heart.

Troxel's defense team of Kip Fontaine and Scott Collins waived their chance to make an opening statement, opting to proceed straight to witness testimonies. Jeff Kazmierczak, who married Tanya in 1992 after a one-year courtship, was the first to take the stand.


He was asked by Schieferdecker to describe the events of Aug. 24, 2012, the night before Kazmierczak's disappearance, when the couple drank with neighbors and friends in Greendale Manor, a mobile home park in Thief River Falls.

Among the partiers that night was Troxel, who traveled from Crookston that night to join friends in the mobile home park where he used to live.

August night

Jeff Kazmierczak described a night of drinking and playing yard games near a fire pit at the trailer he and his wife shared with two of their children. Around midnight, rain began to fall and the party moved to the home of a neighbor, Jeff Kazmierczak said.

About 3 a.m., Jeff Kazmierczak went home, leaving his wife at the party where others said she was last seen talking to Troxel outside his car, prosecutors said.

That car, a 1997 Mitsubishi Eclipse, was briefly looked over by Pennington County Chief Deputy Sheriff Ben Kuznia and Thief River Falls Deputy Chief of Police Craig Mattson when the pair interviewed Troxel at his Crookston home late Aug. 25. A later examination of the vehicle showed blood Schieferdecker said was proven by DNA testing to be a near lock-tight match to Kazmierczak's.

Troxel cooperated during the interview, which was played in its entirety in court. In it, Kuznia does most of the questioning while Mattson observed what he testified were a pair of muddy boots in Troxel's bedroom.

The boots may play an integral role in the case. Investigators put Troxel at the crime scene by matching a circular marking with the word "survivor" on the soles of the boots he was allegedly wearing with a similar marking found imprinted in mud near where Kazmierczak's body was found.


The boots weren't mentioned in the recorded interview with Troxel, but his relationship with Jeff and Tanya Kazmierczak was.

"I hope she's found," Troxel told Kuznia and Mattson the night before Kazmierczak's body was found by a man fishing near Smiley Bridge over the Red Lake River on Pennington County Road 7. "Me and Jeff and Tanya were very, very close."

The jury, judge and bailiffs saw the crime scene photo that showed Kazmierczak's body, riddled with stab wounds and with her own shorts covering her face. But daughter Katelynn Kazmierczak looked away. Her gaze was focused on Kuznia, the man who helped put Tanya Kazmierczak into a body bag on the afternoon of Aug. 26, 2012, and who sat in the witness stand on Tuesday.

Call Glawe at (701) 780-1114, (800) 477-6572 ext. 1114 or send email to jglawe@gfherald.com , follow him on Twitter at @JustinGlawe or see his blog at heralding.areavoices.com.

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