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February 14, 2004

Ex-Con says defendant asked him to kill ex-girlfriend

From: The Columbian - Vancouver,WA,USA - Feb 14, 2004

By STEPHANIE RICE, Columbian staff writer

Jurors in the Christopher Neil Ladner trial got a colorful glimpse Friday into prison life, courtesy of a prosecutor's witness who said he was offered money by Ladner to kill his ex-girlfriend.

The ex-girlfriend, Kimber Douglas, also finished her testimony. She says she was with Ladner on Feb. 1, 2000, when Ladner stabbed, then shot, Alex Smith in Smith's VanMall area apartment. Eleven months later Douglas, 25, went to police.

Smith, 19, was Douglas' former roommate. The defense contends it was Douglas who killed Smith.

During opening statements on Wednesday, senior deputy prosecutor Mike Kinnie told jurors that Ladner tried to hire someone to kill Douglas while Ladner was in prison on an unrelated charge.

That someone turned out to be Alex Page, a 40-year-old construction worker and registered sex offender whose rap sheet includes convictions for robbery, assault and promoting prostitution.

Page said when he was at Twin Rivers Corrections Center in August 2001, he was approached by another inmate who told Page he should meet with Ladner. Page said he was approached while in the "big yard."

Kinnie asked Page what the "big yard" was.

"It's a prison's interpretation of a city park," Page said, explaining that inmates can either walk around a track or play baseball or softball.

Ladner had a problem and he wanted someone taken out, Page said.

According to Page, Ladner said he and his girlfriend had killed one of her ex-boyfriends. Page said Ladner told him his girlfriend was hysterical over the guy because "he had dogged her out totally" by stealing money from her.

"What do you mean, 'dogged out?'" interrupted Kinnie.

"In a street term, when someone says 'dogged out,' it means you got used, abused, played, manipulated, hustled, conned, tricked -- it could be any one of them. But the word was 'dogged,'" Page said.

Page said Ladner said he and his girlfriend took the guy out to the woods and shot him, and the girl had since gone to police and was going to testify against Ladner.

Page said he was offered $20,000 -- $10,000 up front -- if he killed Douglas in Spokane. Page was going to be released there in four days; Douglas was possibly going to be living with family there until her trial.

Page said Ladner told him that if Page had to come to Vancouver to kill Douglas, Ladner would pay Page $100,000.

"Fifty thousand cash and $50,000 in drugs," Page said.

Kinnie asked Page how he and Ladner were able to have a conversation, considering that Ladner is hearing-impaired.

"He speaks funny because he's deaf, but he speaks," Page said.

Page said he turned down the offer to kill Douglas. "I stood up and said, 'Hey, man, this is too deep for me,'" Page said.

Page said he would never kill anyone.

"Yeah, I used to be a gangster," he said. "Yeah, I used to be in the streets. I used to do a lot of stuff. My record says that. But I've changed my life. I'm not living that lifestyle no more. Even when I was living that lifestyle, I've never killed nobody before. That's not my nature. I've never been known to be a known hitman or a hired goon or nothing."

Page reported the incident to his counselor. Later, when he was returned to prison for a probation violation, he was stabbed with a pencil for being a snitch. He said word had spread he'd ratted on Ladner.

Page has been out of prison since November 2003.

Jurors also heard Friday from a friend of Ladner's, who said that Ladner confessed to killing Smith.

Ray Alvarez, 26, said he met Ladner at the Washington School for the Deaf in 1995 or '96.

"He said he did it and he said it was a perfect crime," Alvarez said.

"Did you ask him what he meant by 'perfect crime?'" Kinnie asked.

"He said it was fast and they got in and out," Alvarez said.

Douglas testified that she and Ladner were in Smith's apartment for 10 to 15 minutes after Smith was shot because Ladner wanted to make sure that Smith was dead.

Alvarez said he didn't initially go to police because he was scared.

Under cross-examination, defense attorney Jeff Barrar tried to hint that Alvarez might be trying to keep Douglas out of trouble.

Barrar asked Alvarez if he had had sex with Douglas.

"Yeah," Alvarez said.

The trial resumes Tuesday in Clark County Superior Court and should conclude Thursday.

Ladner, 28, faces at least 20 years in prison if convicted of first-degree murder.

Copyright © 2004 by The Columbian Publishing Co.