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Outcome of attempted murder trial hinges on 'intent' issue

Proving intent and judicial decisions made on legal issues involving prior criminal actions are key elements in the attempted murder trial of a man accused of trying to kill his former girlfriend last year on Bainbridge Island.

The trial of Edward Mark Olsen began Dec. 13 in Kitsap County Superior Court and is expected to continue into the week between the Christmas and New Years holidays.

Olsen, 50, faces two counts of attempted murder and three lesser charges after he allegedly doused the bed of Bonnie Devenny with gasoline and threatened to light the fuel on fire during the morning of Nov. 29, 2009.

Their 13-year-old son, who, along with Devenny, appeared on the witness stand this past week, was also in the bed at the time after falling asleep watching television in the John Adams Lane home.

There is no dispute by attorneys that Olsen entered Devenny’s bedroom holding a can of gas, but they disagree about purpose. The state claims the action was premeditated while Olsen’s attorney, Public Defender Shane Silverthorn, claims Olsen had no intention of harming anyone.

Deputy Prosecutor Kellie Pendras opened the trial with the playing of a 911 taped conversation between a dispatcher and a male caregiver at Wyatt House Retirement Center, where Devenny had worked as a nurse’s aide and fled after leaving her house through a bathroom window. The caregiver could be heard saying the woman was upset, having trouble breathing and that someone broke into her house and “threw gasoline on her.”

When asked if she knew who had done it, she could be heard saying, “Edward Mark Olsen.”

The state’s case is that Olsen came to Kitsap County on Oct. 31, 2009, after getting out of prison in California where he was serving a parole violation sentence. He wanted to see his two sons and to reconnect with Devenny.

After about a month of some contact between the two, according to Pendras, Olsen broke into her home and eventually entered her bedroom for the purpose of killing her, Pendras told jurors. Devenny said she woke up with Olsen standing near her bed, holding a gasoline can in one hand and a long-tipped, barbecue lighter in the other.

Devenny and her son escaped, and Olsen fled before turning himself in to authorities six weeks later in Chandler, Ariz.

After playing the 911 tape, Pendras brought up two previous incidents of assault – one occurred in 1998 in Washington and the other two years later while the family lived in California – during which, Pendras alleged, Olsen threatened to kill Devenny. “To truly understand his intent, you have to go back to 1998,” Pendras said.

Judge Jennifer Dalton used a pre-trial session to discuss whether the two incidents should be allowed as evidence. She eventually allowed them, saying that Olsen had pled guilty (one was an Alford Plea) to the charges and that established relevancy.

Dalton also allowed the state to bring up an alleged fist-fight between Devenny and Olsen that occurred about 10 days before the Nov. 29, 2009 incident.

The judge had more trepidation about that event being entered as evidence, but she eventually agreed to the prosecution’s request by saying that she would “leave it up to the jurors if she is trufhful about the accusations when they hear from others on this event.”

Devenny said she didn’t report the event “because he threatened me if I did.”

The 13-year-old boy, who lives with his mother while her two other teenage boys havel ived with Olsen’s parents in Silverdale for more than two years, also testified about the mid-November 2009 event. He said he witnessed both his parents hitting each other.

Silverthorn, who completed his cross-examination of Devenny Thursday, said the lack of physical evidence regarding the attempted murder charges incident calls in question whether it actually happened as Devenny says it did.

Silverthorn said it will be up to Olsen whether or not he will testify next week.

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