Avoiding a rape charge was the motive for the 1999 shooting of a Kendrick couple, according to a Latah County prosecutor trying the double murder case against Dale Shackelford.
"He was bound and determined to get those rape charges dismissed," Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Robin Eckmann said of Shackelford on Tuesday. He is accused of murdering his ex-wife and her friend before burning their bodies in a Kendrick outbuilding.
Shackelford's ex-wife, Donna Fontaine, had brought a rape charge against Shackelford in Missouri. That charge "ultimately led to the murder of Donna Fontaine," Eckmann said while arguing pretrial motions in 2nd District Court.
To prove its case, prosecutors will be allowed to introduce to a jury alleged statements of the murdered woman as related by relatives and friends.
Fontaine's daughter will tell about a phone call her mother allegedly received from Shackelford threatening harm to the daughter if the rape charge wasn't dropped. According to prosecutors, a friend will say Fontaine asked for help hiding her daughter.
Prosecutors also will be allowed to introduce testimony about a tape recorded threat Shackelford allegedly mailed to Fontaine in 1997.
Allegedly recorded against background noise from a pornographic video, the tape recording supposedly captured Shackelford threatening harm while pretending to have sex with Fontaine's daughter.
Evidence would come from a man who claims to have heard the recording. The tape itself was destroyed, according to prosecutors.
Shackelford took the witness stand Tuesday to tell about a mysterious van he saw remove something from the crime scene two days after the bodies of Donna Fontaine and Fred L. Palahniuk were found in a burning outbuilding on Fontaine's Three Bear Road property outside Kendrick.
Reclining in a chair next to his two attorneys, Shackelford appeared relaxed Tuesday, trading friendly comments with prosecutors during breaks.
He appeared with hair now grown to his shoulders and without the beard he had when arrested following a February grand jury indictment. Shackelford retained his smile and polite manner, referring to a questioning prosecutor as "sir" and apologizing when his answers were insufficient: "I don't mean to be difficult."
Shackelford testified that two days after the May 29 fire at Fontaine's property he witnessed two men with carpenters' masks and black boots pull up in a van to the burnt remains and put a 2- to 3-foot long object into a body bag. The van then drove off.
Shackelford acknowledged that despite many interviews with law enforcement and two days of testimony before the grand jury, he did not tell investigators about the incident until last month.
An Idaho State Police investigator who helped search for evidence at the crime scene testified the burnt building was left unguarded for three days between searches. It would have been preferable if the site was guarded, ISP Detective Vern Grotjohn said.
The defense presented testimony from a neighbor who said many people accessed the crime scene a week after the murder, including a neighbor who took a string-like "wick thing" from the burnt remains.
Grotjohn said only the torsos of Fontaine and Palahniuk were recovered during an initial search of the fire scene. The fire department was called back to cool off one of the bodies the following morning so it could be removed.
Investigators returned June 2 to sift through remains, finding bone fragments, teeth, flesh, and two 20-gauge shotgun shells. A semiautomatic pistol was found positioned between the two bodies.
During a third search a week later, investigators found a spent shotgun shell buried beneath grass about 25 yards east of the burnt outbuilding, Grotjohn said.
The defense has withdrawn a motion to delay the trial, which is now scheduled to begin Oct. 16.