An attorney for an Anchorage man charged with killing his wife three years ago said the state can't prove the case — or even that the woman is dead.
Investigators never found the body of 32-year-old Linda Skeek, defense attorney Emily Cooper said Thursday in her opening statement in the trial of Thomas Skeek, 37, on charges of murder and evidence tampering.
Cooper told jurors the state's evidence is weak and circumstantial, Anchorage television station KTVA reported .
"This case is about whether the state can prove their case, whether they can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Thomas is guilty of murder, and they cannot," Cooper said.
Prosecutors over three years revealed little about their case against Thomas Skeek, who reported his wife missing on Jan. 4, 2016.
Prosecutor Saritha Anjilvel in her opening statement said the state will prove Skeek killed his wife early on New Year's Day in 2016 at their home in southeast Anchorage and disposed of her body.
Prosecutors plan to introduce blood evidence found in the home along with receipts and surveillance video they believe prove Skeek tried to clean up a crime scene.
They also say they intend to present information from a woman with whom Thomas Skeek was having an extramarital affair.
"It is a tragedy to which all of us will witness over the coming days and weeks of this trial, and it is the story of her death that you will hear, and the chain of events that followed it that you will piece together," Anjilvel said.
Defense attorney Cooper said decisions by Linda Skeek to drink heavily on weekends and to also have an affair led to her disappearance.
"Her choices are what led to the initial delays in the investigation, and ultimately, her husband being falsely accused of murder," Cooper said.
The state's first witness was Barbara Barnett, who lived in an apartment unit above the Skeek's. She said Thomas Skeek on Jan. 1, 2016, showed up in a car she hadn't seen before and banged on his own door.
"I heard Thomas yelling very loud, swearing, screaming," she said. "He was calling her names."
He entered the home and the couple argued, Barnett said. She heard Linda Skeek say she wanted a divorce. The yelling escalated into sounds of things being thrown and broken, she said.
Barnett testified she heard and felt a jolt that knocked a photo off her wall.
"It was louder than a thump or a thud, it was like a loud bang. It sounded like someone got thrown into the wall," she said.
Prosecutor James Fayette asked what she heard next.
"Nothing," Barnett said. "Not a sound. I never heard Linda again."
Cooper in her opening statement cautioned jurors against believing Barnett's account.
“Her story has never once been the same over the three years of testifying and being interviewed,” Cooper said. “And at the end of this case, I’ll stand here again and urge you not to give very much weight to the state’s first witness in this case.”