Defense Set to Present Case
MINOT – The State finished presenting their case against Heather Hoffman, 26, Minot, about 10:15 a.m. Monday. Hoffman is charged with the murder of Alexander Eckert, 22, on April 22, 2022. The defense will begin presenting their side of the case Monday afternoon.
The trial resumed Monday with the dismissal of a juror who notified the court that she came to realize that she was acquainted with a sister of the victim through activities in Girl Scouts. The State, the defense, and Judge Gary Lee conferred on the matter. Lee ruled that it would be best to replace the juror with one of two alternates who were in the jury box since testimony in the trial began last Thursday.
The State recalled Minot Police Officer Amanda Sommerville to the stand. Sommerville had responded to Trinity Hospital for a report of possible child abuse. At the hospital she talked to the reporting party, Hoffman, regarding a nine-month-old child fathered by Eckert.
Sommerville told the court that Hoffman’s version of events was “kind of jumbled and didn’t really make sense for what was alleged to have occurred.
“No charge was filed. Why?” asked Christopher Nelson, assistant state’s attorney.
“It was unfounded,” responded Sommerville.
“Would you say the defendant was overreacting?” asked Nelson.
“Yes,” replied Sommerville.
The State’s final witness was Dr. Bernie Miller, medical examiner for the State Crime Laboratory in Bismarck. She testified that a bullet entered Eckert’s face at an upward angle, passing through the brain stem, and lodging underneath his scalp at the back of his head.
The victim also had “stippling” in his face and eyes, something Miller said was an indicator of a gun being fired at close range. Stippling is gunpowder that exits the barrel of a firearm along with the bullet. The State alleges that Hoffman fired the fatal shot.
Following the state completing their case, Defense Attorney Steven Mottinger told the court that the defense would call “three, possible four” witnesses and had yet to make a determination as to whether Hoffman would take the stand in her own defense.