Without any physical evidence tying Garrett Coughlin to the crime scene at the Coal Creek Canyon home where Wallace White, Kelly Sloat-White and Emory Fraker were murdered on April 13, 2017, the prosecution focused on tearing down his alibi during Thursday’s court proceedings.
Coughlin, 26, is accused of shooting White, 54; Sloat-White, 56; and Fraker, 39, whose bodies were found April 15, 2017, in a home at 800 Divide View Drive. He has been charged with three counts of first-degree murder after deliberation, three counts of felony murder and one count of aggravated robbery. If convicted of any of the six murder counts, he would be subject to a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. His trial got underway this week in Boulder District Court.
Coughlin told Boulder County Sheriff’s Office investigators he had been at work all day on April 13, 2017. However, his supervisors at Frontier Mechanical Inc., who testified Thursday, noted he was four hours late to work that day.
At the time, Coughlin told his supervisors his tardiness was due to some car issues, but around the same time, he texted his girlfriend, Olivia Cooper, saying he was on his way into work.
Though he didn’t actually get there until 10:30 a.m., at 9:57 a.m. he also sent his girlfriend a Snapchat with a picture of him in his work clothes saying he was waiting in line to get drug tested at work because someone found a needle at the work site, which his supervisors testified also was not true.
The prosecution noted the gap in time in Coughlin’s whereabouts perfectly matches the timeline on which investigators believe the murders took place. The murder weapon was known to have been in Coughlin’s possession.
However, Coughlin’s attorneys, Christian Griffin, and Mary Claire Mulligan, asserted it was impossible to connect Coughlin’s tardiness at work to his presence at the crime scene.
“You don’t know if he was buying drugs during that time do you?” Griffin asked both of Coughlin’s supervisors and his former girlfriend, referring to Coughlin’s secretive drug habit. “You don’t know what he was doing, do you?”
Griffin also noted that Coughlin’s girlfriend and parents were trying to convince him to take private drug tests to help him get clean, suggesting his lie about being tested at work could have been a way to avoid those private tests.
Though the prosecution could not rebut the defense’s claim that Coughlin’s whereabouts during the time of the murders could not be accounted for, it detailed several suspicious activities Coughlin engaged in over the days and weeks following the murders.
Cooper and two of Coughlin’s acquaintances, Evan and Ethan Carmichael, testified that the day after the murders Coughlin and Cooper drove to the Carmichaels’ family cabin in Granby to hang out with friends.
When the couple got there, Cooper said she was looking on Facebook and saw an article reporting three bodies had been found murdered in Boulder County. Coughlin’s only response, according to her, was “did they say who did it?”
Later that night, the Carmichaels said Coughlin took them out to his car to show them two or three large bags of marijuana Coughlin had stashed in the hideaway compartment used for storing a spare tire.
Because drug use had been a constant source of tension in Cooper and Coughlin’s relationship, when the Carmichaels told her about the marijuana in his car while he was passed out upstairs, she confronted him about it, sparking a fight between the two which ended with Coughlin storming out of the house and driving back down toward Denver.
When he left, he accidentally grabbed Cooper’s pack of cigarettes. Soon after, when she went for a smoke she found a bag of heroin in the pack of cigarettes Coughlin had forgotten.
Once she got down to Denver that Sunday, she went to Coughlin’s parents’ house, where he was living at the time, and told Coughlin’s mom, Mary Coughlin, that her son needed to go to rehab.
Mary Coughlin testified on Thursday that she confronted her son about his drug use later that day and they began working out the details for getting him into a rehab. He begrudgingly agreed and texted his supervisors at work requesting a leave of absence so he could undergo treatment.
The next day, Monday, April 18, 2017, Mary Coughlin said Coughlin was sitting in her car waiting for her to take him to rehab, but when she ran back inside to grab a few extra things, he got in his own car and took off.
He sent a text to his mom saying he needed to get out of town to get away from everything and try to get clean on his own, but his whereabouts during this two-week stretch are unclear.
“I didn’t know where he was,” she said. “He was just kind of out there drifting around.”
The prosecution has argued that during this time Coughlin drove to Ohio to meet his cousin, Chad Coughlin, so he could sell the weed he had stolen and get rid of the murder weapon.
Chad Coughlin has yet to testify, though he is scheduled to do so during Friday’s proceedings.
The trial is expected to last through June 21.