Murder charge against Clarkston man dropped

Jun. 10—ASOTIN — A Clarkston man was released from jail Wednesday after the state dropped all charges against him, including second-degree murder.

John C. Weber, 54, has been in custody since March 7, when Clarkston police responded to a suicide call at his residence. His 50-year-old girlfriend, Kym Berreman, was found in a bedroom with a gunshot wound to the head, and was later pronounced dead at St. Joseph Regional Medical Center.

Prosecutor Ben Nichols filed a motion to dismiss Weber’s charges in Asotin County Superior Court, saying his decision was based on a thorough review of the evidence and reports, including those provided recently by the defense. Probable cause to support the charges has “deteriorated,” Nichols said.

Superior Court Judge Brooke Burns signed the order shortly before noon, along with Weber’s attorneys, Mark Monson, of Moscow, and James Grow, of Lewiston. Weber was immediately set free from the Asotin County Jail, where he has been held on a $1 million bond.

“I just appreciate the people that believed in me — my family, my lawyers, my coworkers, all the people who sent me cards and letters,” Weber said in an email. “I honestly hope to God her family can find closure and peace.”

Grow said he agrees with the prosecutor that the state’s case had deteriorated.

“The question now is how does my client get his life back?” Grow said. “How does he get his job back? How does he get his reputation back?”

Grow said he is sympathetic to the Berreman family, “but the truth of the matter is there was not a shred of evidence that my client was in that room. It’s a tragedy, and there’s really no winners here. Our feelings of relief are tempered by the fact that they have suffered a great loss.”

The case was dismissed without prejudice, meaning the charges can be refiled at a later date if new evidence comes to light.

“I’ve always believed my job is first and foremost to protect the community, and at the same time try to find the truth and see that justice is done,” Nichols told the Lewiston Tribune. “Generally, as a case proceeds, the investigation provides more evidence to support the charges. In this case, the ensuing investigation produced reasonable doubt.”

Nichols said when he takes a case to trial, he has to stand before a jury and ask them to find the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. “If I’m not convinced it’s beyond a reasonable doubt, I can’t do that.”

Last week, a written statement from Weber was filed with the court. “I did not go more than one step into the bedroom at any time after Kym shot herself,” he said. “I did not touch the gun, nor did I touch Kym.”

On the day of her death, Weber asked to talk with his lawyer, and he believes that is what led to his arrest, according to the statement.

“If I had thought that asking to speak to my lawyer, Jim Grow, would cause the police to change their minds about Kym’s suicide and believe it was a crime, I would have worded it differently or said more than I did.”

Nichols said Weber’s five-page statement answered some of the questions he had.

“While I understand and absolutely respect a defendant’s right to remain silent and would never disparage that right, it definitely helps a prosecutor to hear the defendant’s side of the story.”

According to court documents, Berreman had a gunshot wound to her head and was holding a pistol in her right hand when police and medics arrived. The initial investigation and information from paramedics and hospital staff led officers to believe the bullet had entered Berreman’s left temple and exited the right side of her head.

However, at an autopsy conducted at the Spokane County Medical Examiner’s Office, Dr. John Howard said the entry wound was actually to the right temple and the exit wound was to the left. In addition, Howard said he did not observe any blood on Berreman’s right hand.

Medical records obtained by the defense indicated her body was cleaned at St. Joseph Regional Medical Center, which explained the lack of blood. They also discovered Berreman had a history of suicide attempts.

In addition, the defense sent the sweatshirt Weber was wearing on March 7 to an expert for testing, and no blood was found.

Grow and Monson were preparing a motion to dismiss the case when they learned of the prosecutor’s decision. They were also seeking a bond review, which was scheduled for Monday.

During a phone interview, Monson said he’s extremely pleased Weber’s case was dismissed. This is the first time he’s seen murder charges withdrawn during his 20 years of practicing law.

“First and foremost, our thoughts are with the family, because they lost their loved one. We also have a client who has been incarcerated for 90 days based on speculation,” Monson said. “There has not been any evidence produced that ties him to any wrongdoing in the matter. Two days after his arrest, the state was made aware their theory of the case was wrong. In spite of this, they proceeded with the case, and to my knowledge, they never corrected the record. That is troubling.”

Weber, a lifelong Clarkston resident, was employed at the Asotin County Regional Landfill, where he hopes to return to work.

Sandaine may be contacted at kerris@lmtribune.com. Follow her on Twitter @newsfromkerri.

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