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Case not a `whodunit'; Lawyer: Mental state is the issue.

Byline: Gary V. Murray

WORCESTER - The lawyer for a Webster man on trial on charges stemming from a 2007 shooting rampage in Dudley that left two people dead and a third seriously injured told the jury yesterday that the case was "not a whodunit."

"Christian Muller done it," defense lawyer John H. LaChance conceded in his opening statement to the Worcester Superior Court jury.

"The issue is why and what was his mental state," said Mr. LaChance, who has raised an insanity defense on Mr. Muller's behalf.

While Assistant District Attorney Christopher P. Hodgens predicted the evidence would support the charges against Mr. Muller, which include two counts of murder, Mr. LaChance said the jury would hear that his client was suffering from mental illness and drug addiction at the time of the killings and lacked criminal responsibility for his actions.

Mr. Muller, 29, is charged with two counts of murder, armed assault with intent to murder, three counts of home invasion and unlawful possession of a firearm or ammunition in the July 9, 2007, shooting deaths of Aaron Bash, 31, and Denise Johnston, 36, in a third-floor apartment at 25 West Main St. in Dudley.

Mr. Bash and Ms. Johnston died from gunshot wounds to the head. Mr. Bash's sister, Joanne Mercier, was also shot in the head, but survived. She is expected to testify against Mr. Muller.

Mr. Hodgens said in his opening statement that Mr. Muller told police he accidentally shot Ms. Johnston and then decided he had to kill the other two victims to keep them from identifying him.

Marek Karlowicz, a Dudley police officer and the first witness called by Mr. Hodgens, testified yesterday that Ms. Mercier motioned to him and other officers from a window of the West Main Street apartment when they responded to a report of gunshots on the morning of July 9, 2007.

Officer Karlowicz said he and his fellow officers entered the building with guns drawn and found Ms. Mercier seated on a living room couch, crying and bleeding from a head wound. She appeared in shock, according to the officer.

Police soon discovered the other two victims in a back bedroom, Officer Karlowicz told the jury. Mr. Bash, who had been shot twice in the head, was dead and Ms. Johnston was still alive, he testified.

When asked who shot her, Ms. Mercier replied, "`Christian,'" Officer Karlowicz told the jury.

Paramedics, who had been summoned earlier, arrived and transported Ms. Johnston and Ms. Mercier to UMass Memorial Medical Center - University Campus, in Worcester, according to Officer Karlowicz.

Ms. Johnston later died in the hospital.

Dr. Richard J. Evans, the pathologist who performed the autopsies, testified that Mr. Bash and Ms. Johnston died from gunshot wounds of the head.

Dr. Richard P. Moser, the neurological surgeon who operated on Ms. Mercier, said her skull was fractured and bone fragments were driven into her brain tissue. Dr. Moser testified that Ms. Mercier's skull was repaired using metal plates and a bone substitute. The bullet did not penetrate her brain, he said.

In his opening statement, Mr. Hodgens said Ms. Mercier's survival "can only be described as a miracle."

The trial is scheduled to resume Monday morning.

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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Mar 5, 2011
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