A Pierce County jury Tuesday will begin deliberating the fate of Tyler Savage, the South Hill man charged with killing a developmentally disabled teenage girl three years ago.
That Savage, 21, is responsible for 16-year-old Kimberly Daily’s death is not in dispute. He admitted on the stand that the girl died at his hands. But was it cold-blooded murder or a horrible accident resulting from two teens engaging in risky sex?
The jury’s answer will mean the difference between a life sentence without the possibility of parole for Savage and one where he might once again walk free.
Savage faces a life sentence if convicted as charged of aggravated first-degree murder. His sentence would be substantially less if convicted of second-degree manslaughter as his defense team argues he should be.
Attorneys on both sides made their cases Monday during closing arguments.
Deputy prosecutor Phil Sorensen led off. He said Savage led Daily into a secluded area on a hot August day in 2010, raped her and then strangled her with her shirt and bra. What’s more, the deputy prosecutor said, Savage premeditated the attack.
“Premeditation. What does it look like?” Sorensen said as he projected crime scene and autopsy photos onto a courtroom screen. “Clothing – not one piece but two – not just wrapped but tied, not just tied but tied so tightly that it leaves furrows in the neck. That’s what it looks like.”
Savage, Sorensen argued, killed the girl and “threw her away like a piece of garbage” to cover up the fact he’d raped her.
Guilty as charged, he concluded.
Defense attorney Les Tolzin then took his turn. He told jurors that prosecutors had chosen the facts that best supported their theory of the case but ignored the truth. Daily, he said, was a “boy crazy” teenage girl who was beginning to explore her sexuality.
It was she who initiated the meeting with Savage the day she died, and she who asked him to tie her bra and shirt around her neck, Tolzin argued, citing his client’s testimony. He also pointed out there was little evidence of rape – Savage had no defensive wounds on his body and none of his DNA was found on Daily’s body where investigators usually find it after rape.
Daily dying was a tragic accident, but it wasn’t premeditated murder, Tolzin said. Savage hid the body and didn’t tell anybody because he thought no one would believe his story, he added.
“He’s guilty of second-degree manslaughter,” Tolzin said.
Prosecutor Mark Lindquist had the last word.
During his rebuttal argument, he recounted numerous lies Savage told detectives and said he never once told anyone, until he was on the stand, that the girl’s death was an accident.
“Why?” Lindquist said. “Because this wasn’t an accident.”