BARRON — The trial for a Birchwood woman accused in the stabbing death of her boyfriend in August 2019 began Monday with jury selection, opening statements and the prosecution presenting its case.
Melanie R. Kuula, 45, is charged with the second-degree intentional homicide of Brett Bents in Barron County Court, which carries a maximum penalty of 40 years in prison and 20 years of extended supervision.
Barron County District Attorney Brian Wright and defense attorney Joseph Raymond outlined their cases to 14 jurors — 12 on the panel and two alternates — before noon.
Wright said he’d show evidence, testimony and autopsy photos as he presented his case. According to him, Kuula was heard saying, “I don’t care if I go to jail.”
Wright said Kuula stabbed Bents in a manner that was practically certain would cause his death.
Raymond, on the other hand, said Kuula stabbed Bents, but it was a case of justifiable self-defense as she feared for her life.
This is a case of self-defense and domestic violence, Raymond said, and evidence will show it.
In pretrial hearings, Judge James C. Babler approved hearing from a domestic violence expert, Melissa Scaia, who planned to testify on behalf of Kuula about the impact domestic abuse has on victims.
The trial is expected to last all week. It was originally slated for August. Other ground rules set are for COVID-19 safety measures. Photos and exhibits will not be handed out to the jury, and laser pointers will be used whenever possible for identifying parts of photos. Witnesses will be allowed to remove face masks while testifying.
Wright declined to comment about the case in advance of the trial.
Kuula posted a $25,000 cash bond in August. She is accused of stabbing and killing Bents on Aug. 10, 2019, after she claims she caught him in bed with another woman. He died of a single stab wound near his heart, and he suffered blunt-force trauma to his face. The death was ruled a homicide.
Kuula called the Barron County Sheriff’s Department dispatch center at 4:23 p.m. that day, admitting she had stabbed Bents.
When officers arrived, they found him dead in the backyard.
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