Juror speaks out about difficult verdict in triple homicide murder trial

DENVER -- Garrett Coughlin will spend the rest of his life in prison.

“We have a 26-year-old that will not get to experience life, because he was involved in taking 3 people’s lives,” said Melody Ayers who was one of 12 jurors who helped decide his fate.

Melody Ayers is one of 12 jurors who helped decide his fate.

She knew very little about the high-profile case, ahead of jury selection.

Once she was selected, Ayers says the trial started less than an hour later—and she quickly learned just how difficult it would be to sit through some of the exhibits.

“We knew it was going to be emotional, but we also knew it was our civic duty.”

The trial started June 4.  A verdict wasn’t handed down until June 17.

The case was challenging, with little physical evidence

“The only physical evidence we had was the gun,” said Ayers.  “Everything else was circumstantial.  What if it was stolen?  What if he gave it to someone else?”

She says there was a lot of circumstantial evidence to work with, though—including phone records putting Coughlin near the crime scene the morning it happened, and a bank account showing an uncharacteristically large deposit of money shortly after the murders.

Ayers went through some of the circumstantial evidence with FOX31 on Sunday.

“He was able to go on a long trip to Ohio, where he took the gun — that was one of the murder weapons — and gave it to his cousin, out of state.  He called into work that morning and said he was having car trouble.  But he texted his girlfriend at the time, saying he was in his way to work.”

“He didn’t have an alibi at that time,” she added.  “The money… the fact that he tried to get rid of the gun by taking it to Ohio…”

Not all jurors were initially convinced he was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, though.

They deliberated for a day and a half before reaching a verdict.

“You take one piece of circumstance, and you can break it like a pen.  But you add another piece, and another piece, and another piece—and you can’t break it.  With all the circumstantial evidence that was presented to us, I think we came to the right decision.  I know we did,” said Ayers.

Ultimately, Coughlin was found guilty of murdering Wallace White, Kelly Sloat-White, and Emory Fraker—and convicted on three counts of felony first-degree murder, and one count of aggravated robbery.

Just as challenging for jurors, Ayers says, was the mental toll the details of this case took on them.

“The crime scene pictures were worst than the autopsy pictures.  It’s just emotionally draining.”

“With what I do for a living, I read medical records every day.  I have read a lot about some very terrible diseases that hit people—but this was different.  It was just very difficult,” she added.

About a week later, the case still weighs heavy on her.

“Judge Labuda warned us that we could be going through these feelings for days, for weeks, for years.”

The state offers up to three free counseling sessions to jurors who experience trauma during or after a trial.

Ayers hasn’t decided yet whether she’ll use these services.

“I think staying close with the jurors involved in this will help and talking and sharing with my husband, [and] with my kids.”

She says since the conclusion of the trial, she already met with one of the jurors to have coffee and talk about about the case—calling it therapeutic.

“I think it will take time, but I think we will eventually get there.”

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