ESCH— Day 3 of the Trent Esch trial began in the morning on Thursday, June 17 with the testimony of Josh Dalby. Josh, the son-in-law of Crystal Esch and brother-in-law to Trent Esch, began testimony describing his point of view from the day of the homicide on July 11, 2020.
Josh testified that he had been mowing Crystals lawn as well as his own when he heard what he believed to be gun fire sometime after 5:45 PM. Josh continued and said he began to travel down Round Valley Road toward Crystal’s residence when he was met by his two young children who were hysterical and screaming, “Trent shot Grandma! Trent shot Grandma!”
After arriving at Crystal’s home, Josh entered the house and found Crystal already deceased on the floor. After contacting a family member to call 9-1-1, Josh returned to the residence to check the home once again and subsequently waited for police to arrive on scene.
During cross-examination, Trent’s attorney, James Davis, asked a number of questions regarding firearms and why when he thought he heard gunfire he grabbed a .22 long rife instead of his 9mm pistol. Josh stated that he grabbed the long rife because it was more accurate at long range instead of the pistol. Davis also asked about phrasing of certain comments that were said by his kids and what he testified to and noted there were differences in the statements.
Tim O’Brien also testified to statements made by Trent to him while he was pumping gas at a Trotter’s gas station. O’Brien stated the two had made small talk throughout the encounter when Trent stated, “I’m thinkin’ about [expletive] somebody up. You ever feel that way?” Davis argued that the statements made during testimony were different than what O’Brien said to the investigators. Davis pointed out that during an interview, O’Brien was quoted telling the NSP investigator, “Have you ever felt like kicking someone’s [expletive]?” O’Brien said he probably told the investigator both quotes.
Belinda Chaplin spent a number of hours on the witness stand testifying regarding the family history and some of the interactions she had with Trent. According to Belinda, on July 11, 2020, her and her husband had seen Trent driving down Round Valley Rd. toward the property owned the Crystal and her daughters. Her testimony, and confirmed by surveillance, was after they saw Trent, they turned around to follow him to see where he went. Surveillance showed a vehicle, that was identified as Trent Esch’s pickup, traveling down the road toward Crystal’s residence and shortly after traveling the other direction at a high rate of speed.
According to her testimony, after Trent’s pickup began traveling the other direction Belinda and her husband began driving back to town when she received a call from Josh that Crystal had been shot by Trent.
During her testimony, Belinda discussed some of the issues the family had with Trent, specifically in regards to the land. According to her testimony, the land was deeded to Ted and Crystal Esch. Initially, Trent had been included in the will of his father, Ted Esch, to receive land, but after Trent was convicted in 2013 he was removed from the will.
After being released from prison, he then filed a lawsuit against Crystal for land he believed he was owed. During the lawsuit, harassment protection orders were filed against Trent by Crystal and Belinda. According to Belinda, Trent had said he blamed Crystal and other family members for the death of Ted. Eventually a judgment was made in October 2018 by a judge continuing to keep the land with Crystal.
In April 2019, additional harassment protection orders were given that were then violated by Trent a number of times including when he was being sentenced. Belinda stated Trent was then sentenced on the violations in December of that same year.
Between witnesses, the State played a recorded phone call between Trent and Crystal where Crystal stated Trent would be able to return to the ranch if he agreed to stay out of trouble, follow the rules she set, and also pay rent. Trent stated he agreed with Crystal at the time and also said he understood why he was removed from the will, especially when it came to keeping the land in the family name.
Michael Borders, who was the attorney representing Crystal during the lawsuit, took the stand to testify about what took place during the civil lawsuit in 2018. Borders testified that during the civil trial, Trent thought he was going to be entitled to the land in the future and asked for a judgment that said so.
Borders stated that at there had been an agreement where Trent had been promised to run the farm/ranch, but later had been removed from the will and eventually was not allowed on the property at all. Borders testified that Crystal had found out about letters where Trent blamed her for Ted’s suicide as well as other factors. Because of this reason he was kicked off of the land and told not to return.
A handful of other witnesses took the stand Thursday including an NSP Forensic Scientist who discussed the .22 firearm, Trent’s daughter about her and her fathers rocky relationship, and Investigator Neumiller on a handful of other evidence items.
To finish the day, the man facing life in prison took the witness stand.
Through much of his testimony, Trent confirmed a large portion of what the witnesses had testified on throughout the day. He stated he believed he was owed the land and that Crystal changed the terms of him being allowed on the land when he was in prison and ‘wasn’t fair’.
Trent testified that on July 11 he had begun drinking around 10 AM and had continued drinking throughout the day as he cleaned his own property following an overnight storm. According to Trent, at some point he had decided he was going to talk to Crystal about allowing him to live on the ranch. He then left his residence and fueled up at the Trotter’s location where he claimed he was almost in an accident, after which he told Tim O’Brien, “Have you ever felt like kicking someone’s [expletive]?”
Throughout his testimony, Trent claimed multiple times he never had planned to kill Crystal, but instead wanted to just talk to her. He then testified he drove to Crystal’s residence with the .22 pistol to protect himself against Josh, and entered the residence with a small knock. According to Trent, Crystal then stood up from her chair and told him to leave, which he replied he just wanted to talk. Trent then said Crystal told him he was ‘just as crazy as your dad.’
When talking about the shooting, Trent was emotional and often had to pause his testimony to gather himself.
He then testified something inside him ‘snapped’ and he shot her multiple times. While Trent testified that he shot her out of anger after he ‘snapped,’ the State argued that he had hated her since he was little and did not shoot just once, but pulled the trigger around ten times. Trent also testified that he would admit to everything including the firearms charges, but would not admit to something he did not do which was the charge of 1st degree murder.
Closing arguments are expected to begin Friday, June 18 at 9 AM.
Day 1 Jury Selection
Day 2 Recap