As teens at a Juneau Bible camp years ago, Brian Radel and his new friend Jason Arrant made a blood oath to do whatever the other needed done.
Even, as it turned out, to kill.
"A blood oath means that whatever you say, you cannot get out of. No matter what," Radel testified Wednesday in Anchorage Superior Court.
He riveted jurors with more than five hours of testimony about how and why in 2004 the two friends murdered the mother of Arrant's girlfriend, a 16-year-old with whom Radel also had a brief fling. Both men were 24 at the time of the killing near Craig, in Southeast Alaska.
Rachelle Waterman, now 22, is on trial, accused of plotting with the men to kill her mother. She is being retried on numerous charges including murder. The first trial, in Juneau in 2006, ended with a hung jury.
She told the men her mother was abusive, and that made them want to protect her, Radel said. Both pleaded guilty to the murder and, as part of their plea deals, testified against Waterman in Juneau. Radel is serving 99 years and Arrant, 50 years.
On Wednesday, before jurors entered the courtroom, Arrant, now 31, refused an order of Judge William Carey to testify again. "I have taken a stand, and I'm going to stick by it," Arrant said. Carey told him he'd be subject to a criminal contempt charge.
Jurors will have to weigh Radel's in-person testimony against a recording of Arrant's testimony from the first trial that is being played in court. Only Arrant ties Waterman directly to the murder plot, prosecutors say.
Radel testified that he never talked to her about it and relied on Arrant to let him know whether Rachelle really wanted her mother dead. He told jurors he only agreed to murder Lauri Waterman to prevent her from killing her daughter.
That, he said, was ingrained in his moral code.
HOME SCHOOLEDRadel, now 30, told jurors his childhood was rough. His parents were strong Christians and moved the family to Thorne Bay, on the other side of Prince of Wales Island from Craig, to get away from society.
"They tried going to some churches but never found any church that was correct enough for their outlook on things," he told jurors, under questioning from prosecutor Jean Seaton. He was home schooled. His parents tolerated no back talk. He remembers being hit with "a belt, a broom handle, yard sticks, a metal spoon, a wooden spoon, 1 by 2s, 2 by 2s."
He was trying to make it on his own when he met Rachelle Waterman through her then-boyfriend. By late spring 2004, she was his girlfriend, he told jurors.
She was 15 then though Radel said he never asked her age. He said they engaged in sexual activity a couple of times but didn't complete the acts. At his request, she e-mailed him nude pictures of herself, he told jurors. She broke up with him after a month or so, Radel said.
Radel said he introduced Waterman to Arrant and soon they were a couple, he said.
For a while, he had a computer shop in Craig called Dark Wolf. Waterman and Arrant would hang out with him there to play Dungeons & Dragons.
On the stand Wednesday, Radel couldn't remember much about what Waterman had told him directly about abuse by her mother. Her mother hit her, he recalled. He wondered if she was exaggerating. Then Arrant told him he had watched over a webcam as Lauri Waterman beat Rachelle with a baseball bat.
Things were so bad, Waterman feared for her life, Arrant eventually told him.
At first Waterman didn't want her mother killed, Arrant told him. But then she changed her mind, Radel tes tified he was told.
He said he was stunned. Waterman seemed like an anti-violence liberal.
He and Arrant talked about ways to kill Lauri Waterman. Put her in a plastic tote, fill it with cement and drop it in the sea. Rig some kind of explosive. A staged drunk driving crash. A sniper attack.
Arrant wanted other people killed, too, including Waterman's former boyfriend, as well as her father, Carl "Doc" Waterman, Radel testified. He said he knew Waterman loved her father and wouldn't have wanted that. He said they didn't need to be killed. He told jurors that he now thinks Arrant manipulated him.
Early on Sunday, Nov. 14, 2004, when Arrant knew Rachelle and her father were out of town, they decided to go through with the drunken driving scheme, Radel told jurors. Arrant dropped him off near the Waterman home. He slipped into the garage through an unlocked window then dismantled a cat door and reached through to the door knob to get in the house.
Wouldn't it have been easier with a key, Defense lawyer Steven Wells asked him. Waterman had one, and there was one hanging outside, Wells has said.
Sure, Radel said. He needed other things too. He asked Arrant for interior pictures of the house and a diagram, the kind of clothes Lauri would wear, the kind of note she would write. Arrant kept saying he forgot to ask Waterman about all that, Radel testified.
Radel, who is 6 foot 6, said he crept up to the third floor master bedroom. Lauri Waterman roused and he hid in the dark for an hour or two, until she fell back asleep. He put a towel around her head to gag her and she started to cry. He told her he wouldn't hurt her if she did what he said.
He had her drink nearly a bottle of wine, bound her hands and feet with towels and duct tape, put her in the family minivan and drove to a spot where he tried to snap her neck backwards, to make it look like whiplash, Radel testified. Arrant met them there.
During the attack, Radel said, Arrant crouched down and told Lauri Waterman "this is so you'll never hurt your daughter again."
As he told the awful details, Rachelle Waterman dabbed her eyes with tissues.
Radel said he couldn't break Lauri's neck by snapping it so he karate chopped her throat and still she didn't die. He put a towel over her face to suffocate her. She still had a faint pulse. They drove to another spot. She was dead by then, Radel said, and too battered for the drunken driving story to work. They doused her body with gasoline, he said, and set it and the minivan on fire.
Find Lisa Demer online at adn.com/contact/ldemer or call 257-4390.
By LISA DEMER
Alaska Dispatch Publishing