GOSHEN — With the promise of a long, difficult trek through a dark underworld of drug culture, jurors began hearing testimony on Tuesday in the trial of two Elkhart men accused of abusing and murdering a woman beneath an alleged meth den.
Donald Owen Jr., 22, and Mario Angulo Jr., 20, are each charged with counts of murder, robbery and criminal confinement. Owen is accused of authorizing the death of Kimberly Dyer, 31, of Columbia City, and Angulo is accused of carrying it out at a suburban house on Elkhart’s outskirts around Oct. 22, 2019.
“We are not going to pretend it is easy,” Elkhart County Prosecutor Vicki Becker told the jury in her opening statement. “We are not going to pretend that it’s going to feel good. We are not going to pretend that anybody is innocent in this circumstance.”
As she presented the key elements of her argument in Elkhart County Circuit Court, Becker set the scope. She said more than 40 witnesses were interviewed, including those who were at the house along Old Orchard Lane, off C.R. 16, and deep into the cycle of drug use and criminal activity.
Given the potential unreliability of witness accounts through a “drug haze,” as well as conflicting statements, the defense attorneys in the case argued Becker charged the wrong guys.
“Our theory of this case isn’t that Kim Dyer wasn’t horribly mistreated, it isn’t that Kim Dyer wasn’t killed,” Thomas Dixon, Angulo’s attorney, said during his opening statement. “The state has its theory to the case. Our theory of the case is that the state has the wrong people.”
Dixon promised to bring evidence during his case that points to who he believes are the suspects who took Dyer’s life.
“At the end of the day, we’re going to present evidence to you that it wasn’t my client who killed Kim Dwyer, but that there were others who did,” Dixon said.
VICTIM TORTURED, KILLED
Dyer, as a methamphetamine addict, was among the users who populated the house leading into October 2019, Becker described. The house, she said, had become a “haven” for users as the owner slid into his own cycle of addiction.
But Dyer fell into trouble with the group, and the situation worsened when she was found to have a notebook containing a list of names; a list believed to be for ratting on people around her, Becker described.
Meanwhile, Angulo had been brought to the house by a friend, Matthew Murzynski, a man who recently pleaded guilty in this case and who, according to Becker, was associated with the Latin Kings gang.
With Dyer accused of being a snitch, Becker said Angulo and Murzynski interrogated her for hours in the house’s basement starting around Oct. 20. They and others allegedly bound, beat, burnt and dehumanized her in a situation so agonizing, Becker said people could hear her screams upstairs even over the sound of music.
“They were the ones that went into this basement room of the house on Old Orchard, closed the door and took care of business,” Becker said.
Eventually, Owen was called in with Becker alleging he was also affiliated with the Latin Kings and nicknamed “Almighty King Duke.” After he was driven to the house by another woman, Becker said Owen’s involvement signaled a point of no return.
Going into Oct. 22, Becker said Dyer was being tortured along with another man, Robert Porter, an alleged marijuana dealer from Michigan. He was robbed in addition to enduring dehumanization tactics, she said. The robbery charge against Angulo and Owen relates to the situation involving Porter.
In the early morning hours, Becker alleged Owen had had enough and gave the word to put Dyer to death.
“And that is when the order came to kill Kim,” Becker said. “In the words of Almighty King Duke, ‘Put her to sleep.’”
Following various methods of torture, Becker said Angulo held Dyer from behind and used a sharp object to cut her throat.
Dead, she said Dyer’s body was then stuffed into a 32-gallon plastic bin, which was taped up, carried into Owen’s friend’s car, driven into Michigan and dumped in a marshy area near Constantine.
Lt. Michael Carich, a detective with the Elkhart County Homicide Unit, testified he got a call Nov. 6, which led to a source providing a tip about an unreported homicide.
The investigation into Dyer’s death then began with detectives searching the car Owen’s friend drove and searching the house. A missing person alert was posted on Facebook with hopes to generate tips, according to the timeline Carich walked through.
Investigators followed leads to trace Owen’s friend — the woman who allegedly drove him to the house and whose car was allegedly used to dump Dyer’s body — to a rehabilitation center in Michigan. When investigators interviewed her, Carich said the woman pointed them to a specific location to find the remains.
The information led investigators to an area around Mintdale and Lutz roads, east of Constantine.
The woman, “gave us very specific directions where we were able to find it almost immediately once we got there,” Carich testified.
Carich said the bin with Dyer’s remains was found wrapped with blankets, covered with a camouflage jumpsuit and partially submerged in a swampy area at the bottom of a steep embankment off the roadway.
After St. Joseph County Michigan police were called to process the crime scene, Dyer’s body was transported for an autopsy to be conducted, he said.
Testimony in the trial continues Wednesday.
During Tuesday’s opening statements, Owen’s attorney, Jeffery Majerek, reminded jurors that while Angulo and Owen are being tried together, their charges are not combined. He pointed out separate verdicts would have to be given for each defendant.
Murzynski, 25, meanwhile had pleaded guilty in the case March 25, admitting to charges of robbery and criminal confinement. He’s scheduled to be sentenced May 6, according to court information.