To hear Pierce County prosecutors tell it, William Grisso was in love in the summer of 2014, just not with the woman to whom he was engaged.
Grisso wanted Nancy Gardner out of his life so he could take up with another woman, but she’d been reluctant to leave, having recently moved from Texas to be with him, deputy prosecutor Jared Ausserer told a jury Wednesday.
So Grisso decided to kill Gardner, Ausserer said, and on a sunny day in late June he carried out his plan, driving the 45-year-old woman to a secluded area outside Belfair and shooting her twice in the head.
He then reported her missing, trying to portray himself as a victim, Ausserer said.
“Mr. Grisso is not a victim,” the deputy prosecutor said Wednesday during his closing argument in Grisso’s premeditated first-degree murder trial. “The evidence establishes beyond all doubt that he is a calculated, cold-blooded murderer.”
Not so fast, countered defense attorney Lance Hester.
Prosecutors presented no direct evidence tying Grisso, now 42, to the scene, Hester argued. What’s more, someone purporting to be Grisso’s son wrote at least one letter confessing to killing Gardner, he said.
“There’s no evidence that William Grisso killed Nancy Gardner,” Hester argued. “In fact, he didn’t do so.”
Jurors are to begin deliberating the evidence Thursday (Oct. 8).
The case against Grisso began June 30, 2014, when he called sheriff’s detectives to report his fiancée missing, court records show. He told detectives he’d returned from an errand and found her gone from the home they shared.
Her cellphone, wallet and keys were in the house but her pistol was not, Grisso told authorities.
Detectives later used cellphone data, including a photo Gardner apparently snapped of a flower, to find her body.
They also used a series of calls and text messages Grisso made June 30, 2014, to track his movements and show he was with Gardner and in the area where her body was discovered, Ausserer argued.
One of those messages was to his would-be paramour, telling her, “I don’t want to lose you again,” the deputy prosecutor said. That message was sent 13 minutes after the flower photo was taken, Ausserer said.
Hester told the jury Grisso could not have been in Belfair at the time authorities believe Gardner was killed because a witness testified Grisso was in the Lakewood area dropping off some legal documents about 3:45 p.m. that day.
There is no way he could have made the drive from Lakewood to the murder scene by the time prosecutors argued Gardner was killed, the defense attorney said.
Prosecutor Mark Lindquist, who tried the case with Ausserer, said during his rebuttal argument that the witness was mistaken about the time.
“Remember, she testified that she couldn’t be certain about the time,” Lindquist said.
He also dismissed the “other suspect” theory raised by Hester, saying detectives found no evidence anyone else was involved.