LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) — A jury found Patrick Elliott guilty on two counts, murder and false informing, Thursday afternoon. According to the prosecutor, a firearm sentence enhancement will be added due to the use of a firearm in the murder. Thursday was the fourth day of his trial. As News 18 previously reported, he was accused of killing his wife Donita Elliott in August of 2017.
The prosecution and defense attorneys gave their closing arguments in the morning. The state started first. They began by going over the timeline of what happened. They brought up the fact that Patrick had testified the day before that he had always stuck by Donita, yet he had filed for divorce in 2009 and the two informally split in 2015.
They said that Donita had actually received good news from doctors on August 2nd, 2017. They were worried that she had pancreatic cancer, but tests showed she had non-life threatening cirrhosis of the liver. Yet Patrick had testified that she had received bad news. Several other witnesses over the previous days also said they had been told by Patrick that she had gotten bad news. Patrick was claiming the "bad news" was the source of her anger.
The prosecution brought up texts from August 3rd from Donita to Patrick where she told him she wanted a divorce, yet he wouldn't agree. They brought up how he moved $10,000 from their joint bank account because he claimed when they split in 2015, she had drained the bank account. He left about $5,000 in the account. But an email that Patrick sent to a friend in 2015, he essentially said that the money was given to Donita and that he was happy for the separation.
This is when the attorney played the audio recording of the killing for a fourth time. According to time stamps and call records, the shots were fired at 12:52 a.m. on August 8th, Patrick called 911 at 12:54 a.m. and he didn't start CPR until 1:02 a.m. It took Patrick ten minutes to start any kind of life saving methods. Donita was pronounced dead around 7:00 a.m.
On August 8th, Patrick told investigators that he was unsure if he had a life insurance policy for Donita. However, soon after her death, he went to a local funeral home, where he filled out paperwork with specifics about her life insurance.
Next, defense lawyer Mike Troemel made his closing statements. He had three questions that he wanted the jury to consider. The first was 'why did Donita leave her purse and cell phone in her unlocked car' when she came home in the early hours of August 8th. He said this suggested to him that she maybe wasn't planning on staying at the house long.
His second question was 'why did Patrick feel the need to record what happened.' Patrick had testified on Wednesday that Deputy Jonathon Ringo had told him that it's good to record a threatening incident to have as proof of what happened. Troemel said that Patrick would only have recorded this if he felt he was actually threatened.
The third question was 'why would he leave a solid amount of money in the joint bank account if he was doing this for money.' He then reminded the jury that Detective Thad Miller had used interrogation tactics to get Patrick to admit to a crime that aligned with what the state wanted. He said Det. Miller gave two guilty options for Patrick to choose between, and never self-defense. It is legal for police to lie about what they know in order to get a confession from a suspect.
He then brought up Donita's diagnosed Bipolar disorder. The officers who conducted a wellness check on August 7th and Donita's psychiatrist, Dr. Aldo Buonanno, all testified that they believed Donita needed to get help. Troemel asked the jury, "Who has been the constant aggressor?" Finally, he left the jury with the fact that Patrick's DNA was not found on the knife he later confessed to planting. When Patrick took the stand on Wednesday, he went back to his original story that Donita had come at him with the knife.
In a trial like this, the state gets the last word. So the prosecuting attorneys presented more than 50 inconsistencies they had found between Patrick's stories and evidence. Dr. Buonanno had testified that people who are bipolar tend not to be violent. The doctor said about 10% of the time, they are in a "manic state," but manic doesn't necessarily mean angry or violent. Sometimes it can be positive energy. Previous testimony from Donita's daughter, Ashley Yoakum, said that Patrick always blamed and argument on Donita's Bipolar disorder. Donita and Yoakum had also made up after arguing on August 5th. The state said that people who are bipolar are allowed to be angry for other reasons, such as one's spouse not letting them have a divorce or when one's spouse moves a large sum of money out of one's reach.
On August 4th, Patrick had a texting conversation with the National Alliance on Mental Health crisis text line. This was the first and only time that Donita texted him actual threats, such as "put your head under water and don't come up" and "do you want me to put the gun to your head." Patrick had responded things like "this is my wife, I'm her only help" and that getting police involved would "heighten her mistrust in me." The prosecution found this manipulative because several other people were active resources for help had testified, including Yoakum and family friend from church Marlene Bibby.
Patrick said to Det. Miller in the interrogation on August 14th that he had not planned to kill his wife. Photos from the scene found his gun holster under the couch cushion. Patrick had testified that he was sitting in a recliner and had his gun on a table next to the chair. Why was the holster under the couch if the gun was on a table not near the couch? Asked the prosecution. Patrick testified that he was preparing the best place to be in case of an attack. He had also told police that he had secured all the guns in the trunk of his car on August 7th, but he kept one for himself. The prosecution saw these actions as signs of planning to kill.
Then the prosecution dissected the audio recording. They claim that you don't hear Donita's voice get closer to Patrick. The state said that you could hear fear in Donita's voice after she had been shot, as she begged for help eight times and Patrick said no. They said you do not hear any fear in Patrick's voice in the argument leading up to the shot.
Andrew Koeling is the forensic biologist who tested the knife for DNA. He said that it is possible for someone to touch an object and not leave any DNA behind. Patrick testified that he had kicked the knife away from Donita after she had been shot with his bare foot. Yet there was still none of his DNA found on the knife. Also in the moments after she had been shot, you hear Patrick say "here's your (expletive) knife, (expletive) you."
You also never hear Patrick apologize or ask for forgiveness in the audio recording or in the 911 call he made. In that call, you can hear the dispatcher asking him if he could see the wounds or see blood. Patrick kept saying he couldn't see anything and that he wasn't sure if he had shot her. Dr. Darin Wolfe is the forensic pathologist who did the autopsy on Donita. He testified on Monday that she had been shot within six to 30 inches. The state found it hard to believe that he didn't see blood or know if she had been shot when she was shot from such a close range.
Patrick was charged with murder and false informing. The jury deliberated for less than an hour before coming to the unanimous conclusion that he was guilty on both charges. He also received a sentence enhancement charge for use of a firearm. He will get 45 to 65 years for murder, one year for false informing, and five to 20 years for the firearm enhancement charge.
News 18 talked to several people who were close to Donita and who attended all four days of the trial. One relative said they were relieved. Her ex-husband said he was happy. Members of their church also were happy with results.
Tippecanoe County Prosecutor Patrick Harrington said this case showed the importance of having a high tech crime unit recovering digital evidence. He said it is extremely rare to have a documented recording of the moment a person is killed by another person. He also shared his appreciation for the Tippecanoe County Sheriff's Office for their cooperation and dedication to this investigation.
Patrick's sentencing date is set for September 26th at 8:30 a.m.