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New evidence gets mistrial in Montana senator's nephew death

John A. Radavich Photo: AP
John A. Radavich

April 20, 2019 10:21 PM

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — The discovery of new evidence prompted a judge to declare a mistrial in the prosecution of a Spokane man charged with killing the nephew of U.S. Sen. Jon Tester of Montana in a sword attack, a newspaper reported.

Court records show a sheriff's detective found a text message in the case file while preparing to give testimony that had not been turned over to the defense, the Spokesman-Review in Spokane reported Friday.

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John A. Radavich, 24, has pleaded not guilty to killing Robert J. Tester, 35, the senator's nephew, in the 2016 attack at the younger Tester's home in Spangle, Washington. Prosecutors have said Radavich was seeking revenge because he believed Tester had assaulted a 17-year-old girl that he had previously dated.

Prosecutors didn't object to the motion for a mistrial by defense attorney Douglas Pierce on April 11 — a day after the trial began — but the reasons for the motion had remained unclear until now. A new trial is set for August.

According to court records, Tester's daughter, who was 8 at the time, called her grandmother on Sept. 6, 2016, to say that a man she didn't know had broken into their home and killed her father.

Spokane County deputies arrived to find a blood trail leading from Tester's bedroom throughout the house. Tester had suffered multiple blunt-force and stab wounds, including a blow to the back of his head by a firewood-splitting maul.

The case remained unsolved until Radavich called a friend in Texas on Dec. 26, 2016, according to court records.

Radavich told the friend he had killed Tester because he believed Tester had assaulted his ex-girlfriend.

During the same recorded phone call, Radavich said the only other person he told of the killing was the former girlfriend.

"I needed her to help cover my tracks," Radavich said, the newspaper reported.

While preparing for his testimony, Spokane County sheriff's Detective Robert Satake found a text message the girlfriend had sent on the night of the killing to a man identified in court records as Christopher Santucci.

On Friday, Pierce asked Spokane County Superior Court Judge Maryann Moreno for a May hearing to interview the girlfriend about that text exchange. It is unclear what the text or texts said.

Moreno set the hearing and told Radavich's defense attorney Douglas Pierce that the newly discovered text message was "extremely significant" for the defense.

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Information from: The Spokesman-Review, http://www.spokesman.com

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(Copyright 2019 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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