Both sides in Ada County’s latest murder trial agree that Joshua Alberts shot Joshua Warren at least a dozen times last year, and that he summoned the victim to the scene under false pretenses.
But defense attorneys and prosecutors diverged during opening arguments Wednesday with wildly different interpretations of the defendant’s intentions that sunny February day.
“What you need to decide is, was it a killing or a confrontation?” defense attorney Daniel Lorello told the jury. “Josh ... had no intention of killing Mr. Warren. He went there to confront him about the relationship with (Warren’s ex-wife) and how destructive it was.”
Ada County Deputy Prosecutor Kai Wittwer disagreed, stressing that Alberts laid in wait for Warren with a loaded Glock 9mm handgun with at least two full clips. Witnesses and police alike described his demeanor as totally calm before and after the gunfire, Wittwer said.
Alberts, 40, faces a first-degree murder charge for killing Warren as the latter drove up to the Whispering Pines apartment complex off Ustick Road to pick up his two children shortly before noon Feb. 20.
Warren thought he was picking up his sons for the week while his ex-wife went to Hawaii with Alberts. But Alberts canceled that plan without telling Warren or his ex-wife, according to both defense and prosecution statements.
“It was just a vehicle to get Mr. Warren to the apartment so Josh could have it out with him,” Lorello said. “It was time to talk.”
He did not directly address why Alberts carried a loaded gun and extra ammo, but told the jury Alberts was afraid of Warren because of alleged dangerous and abusive behavior.
“Hope for the best, plan for the worst,” Lorello said.
Warren at one point texted his ex-wife to ask her to bring the kids to him. But Alberts came up with an idea to offer Warren $100 to come pick up the boys as originally planned, Wittwer said.
According to the prosecutor, Alberts — waiting in his car for Warren to arrive — saw one of Warren’s sons walking his dog. Alberts then moved his car closer to the entrance to the complex so the confrontation would be out of the boy’s view, Wittwer said. When Warren drove up, Alberts flagged him down, walked up to the car and within a few moments opened fire while Warren sat in the driver’s seat, unarmed, with his seatbelt on.
“His bullets strike Josh Warren in the face, in the head, in the chest, in the neck, in the back,” Wittwer said.
Boise Police Lt. Charles LeBar, then a patrol sergeant, was the first officer to arrive at the shooting scene and found Alberts, still carrying his gun, in the parking lot. Alberts holstered his gun, got on his knees and cooperated, LeBar said.
Alberts told LeBar the screaming woman nearby was his girlfriend, then said “that’s her ex-husband.” A recording from LeBar’s police-issued audio recorder replayed the conversation in court.
LeBar: “Where’s her ex-husband?”
Alberts: “He’s in the car, dead.”
LeBar: “You shot him?”
Alberts: “I did.”
Stacy McMullen and Jesse Oakes, whose apartment overlooks the shooting scene, testified they heard two shots, then a pause, then many more shots. Both looked out the window and saw the shooting, they said. McMullen called 911.
Oakes said he looked out the window after the first shots and saw a man in a shooting stance firing a gun into a car, “calm and precise.” He said his initial thought was that the man might be a police officer because of his demeanor.
Warren’s car rolled forward and over a curb. Alberts got back into his car to drive deeper into the complex and tell his girlfriend, Warren’s ex-wife, that “she doesn’t need to worry about Josh anymore,” Wittwer said.
The woman hurried out to Warren’s car and appeared hysterical, witnesses said. The shooter followed her back out to the scene.
“She pushed him and said, ‘what did you do?’” McMullen testified. “Even when she pushed him, he seemed very calm.”
The trial is expected to continue into next week, 4th District Judge Melissa Moody told the jury.
Alberts will eventually take the stand, Lorello told jurors, and will explain that he hadn’t intended to kill Warren.
Kristin Rodine: 208-377-6447