In a taped confession, Morris Brickle-Hicks admitted to striking Misty Coffelt and dragging her across the pavement behind a farm goods store.
Jurors in the case against Brickle-Hicks, 34, who is charged with fatally assaulting Coffelt on April 14, 2016, heard the taped confession on Tuesday, the second day in his five-day trial.
The 12-member jury watched Brickle-Hicks' interview with two Bismarck Police detectives, despite objections made by his attorney James Loraas, who previously asked the court to suppress the statements and bloody clothing Brickle-Hicks gave to police during that interview. Loraas previously stated Brickle-Hicks lacked cognitive abilities and couldn't understand the Miranda warnings.
South Central Judge John Grinsteiner denied Loraas' renewed objections Tuesday. Instead, Loraas requested the interview be shown in its entirety to the jurors.
In the 2.5-hour video, detectives questioned Brickle-Hicks on an assault he reported the previous day, the same day Coffelt's body was found. Brickle-Hicks told them he had been jumped by three men near Denny's in south Bismarck.
The detectives pressed him on where and when the alleged assault happened when the story is flipped.
"I need you to be honest with me," Det. Tyler Welk says in the video.
Brickle-Hicks agrees, and ends up telling them that he got into an altercation with Coffelt and a man. Brickle-Hicks said Coffelt called him a racial slur, and then he admitted to hitting her multiple times on top of the head and face. He said when he left Coffelt was still breathing, but conceded her injuries were life-threatening.
Brickle-Hicks also admitted to taking Coffelt's purse and sweatshirt, and later dumping the items because he believed they had his fingerprints on them. After that, he told the detectives he went to the hospital because he had injured his back.
The prosecutor's witnesses on Tuesday offered details on the visit Brickle-Hicks made to a local emergency room just hours before Coffelt's body was discovered.
Jurors heard from the employees at Sanford Health in Bismarck who treated Brickle-Hicks when he came to the ER complaining of back pain. Lisa Vaca, a registered nurse at Sanford who screened Brickle-Hicks, said he told her he played for a Bismarck football team and his back had been injured. He also said he had been out that night and re-injured it.
The two nurses who treated Brickle-Hicks said he appeared fine, although he admitted to drinking that night. It was after his blood pressure dropped when Dr. Steven Schmidt entered the room and noticed the blood on Brickle-Hicks shoes and pants. A nurse called Bismarck Police, and two patrol officers responded and interviewed Brickle-Hicks, who told them he was assaulted. The incident tipped off police.
Another witness also testified that she had been with Coffelt the day before her death. Alicia Baisch also told jurors she was homeless, and that she and Coffelt had been friends since 2014. Two weeks before Coffelt's death, Baisch had been staying in the same car as Coffelt and her boyfriend, Brian Carver, who were also homeless.
Baisch detailed what she and Coffelt did on April 13, 2016, which included going to Goodwill and Burger King. Early the following morning, they ended up at vacant apartment at Washington Court in south Bismarck. Baisch said she took a shower at the apartment, but when she got out Coffelt was gone. She went back to the car they had been staying at, which was parked near the dumpsters by the Ground Round. Coffelt's boyfriend was there, but Coffelt was not.
Police interviewed Baisch and Carver. Brickle-Hicks is charged with Class AA felony murder for the death of Coffelt.
Additional witness testimony from both the prosecutor and defense attorney will continue today through Friday.