BARRON — The trial for a Birchwood woman accused in the stabbing death of her boyfriend in August 2019 concluded with the jury finding her not guilty Friday afternoon.
Melanie R. Kuula, 45, had been charged with the second-degree intentional homicide of Brett Bents in Barron County Court. He died of a single stab wound near his heart, and he suffered blunt-force trauma to his face.
The trial began Monday morning, and the jury received the case Friday morning.
Kuula took the stand at about 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, and she resumed her testimony Thursday morning to plead her case, telling the jury about years of Bents’ abusive behavior toward her.
The final witness was Melissa Scaia, an internationally known domestic violence expert from Minnesota, who testified about public misperceptions of domestic abuse. She did so without knowledge of the specifics of Kuula’s case.
In the closing arguments, Barron County assistant district attorney John O’Boyle said a key part of the prosecution’s case lies with the 911 call. Overheard was Kuula saying, “I don’t care if I go to jail.”
O’Boyle said Kuula’s actions the day of Bents’ death didn’t make sense, she could easily have retreated and her statements lacked credibility.
Kuula killed Bents out of anger and hurt feelings, he said.
“This was a stabbing done out of anger, not self-defense,” he concluded.
But defense attorney Ryan Joseph Raymond said the case was about self-defense and domestic abuse, just as he had asserted in his opening statement, and believed the prosecution had not met the burden of proving otherwise beyond a reasonable doubt.
Raymond said Kuula feared for her life that day and would not have stabbed Bents at an upward angle if she had been angry — a stab in anger would have come downward. It was one stab wound, low to high, in and out.
“That’s not an anger killing,” Raymond said.
Furthermore, after years of abuse, Kuula could read the warning signs in Bents’ behavior that indicated he was about to become abusive.