Homicide trial continues in La Crosse for man accused of killing woman in 2018

Local News

Several more witnesses took the stand Thursday during day four of Erik Sackett’s homicide trial.

Sackett is charged with murdering Erin Somvilai in June of 2018. Somvilai’s body was discovered in a Vernon County lake tied to cement blocks.

On Thursday the Defense argued that hair collected from the rope Somvilai was tied to was tested and was not a match to Sackett.

“[They] are microscopically dissimilar to hairs in the head hair sample from Erik Sackett. Accordingly, based on the item 36 head hair sample Erik Sackett can not be included as a possible source of these hairs,” said Linda Otterstatter, a physical scientist in trace evidence with the FBI.

Examiners also looked into the cement blocks Somvilai was tied to and they said when compared to one’s collected from Sackett’s property that they too were dissimilar.

“None of the blocks attached to Miss Somvilai chemically matched any of the blocks in Mr. Sackett’s home?,” asked Defense Attorney Chris Zacher.
“That’s correct. They did not,” said Maureen Bottrell, a geologist forensic examiner with the FBI.
“Am I correct in assuming that none of the mortar on the blocks attached to Miss Somvilai matched mortar from any of the blocks or rubble at Mr. Sackett’s home?,” Zacher asked.
“That’s correct. They also did not match,” Bottrell said.

The woman Somvilai shared a duplex with also appeared in court Thursday. The neighbor confirmed that days before her death Somvilai harmed herself in front of her.

“What did she do with the steak knife?,” asked Zacher.
“She tried cutting herself with it,” said Irina Gebhardt, Somvilai’s neighbor at the time of her disappearance.
“Did you try to stop her?,” Zachar asked.
“Yes,” Gebhardt said.

A few days after the knife incident, Gebhardt recalled Somvilai fighting with her over a hose.The fight ended with Somvilai being arrested.
Gebhardt says Sackett was happy and smiling during a conversation two days after Somvilai’s arrest.. something that struck her as odd.

“He was always very nice, but considering what happened days earlier… I thought it was a little weird,” Gebhardt said.

Gebhardt did say she saw Sackett with Somvilai the day before she is thought to have been murdered.

More witnesses are expected to take the stand when court reconvenes Friday morning.

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