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September 17, 2004

Ex-cell mate testifies man admitted to 2000 killing

From: Oregonian, OR - Sep 17, 2004

As "John Doe," the man testifies that Christopher Ladner said he regretted not also killing Kimber Douglas, his lover and a witness to the death Friday, September 17, 2004 HOLLEY GILBERT

VANCOUVER -- A 29-year-old man on trial in Clark County Superior Court for first-degree murder admitted to the crime and regretted not killing a witness who eventually went to police, the defendant's former cell mate testified Thursday.

The man, who testified anonymously as "John Doe," said Christopher Neil Ladner initially told him a former girlfriend was trying to frame him for a murder that started as a dispute over money. Days later, however, Ladner admitted he stabbed and shot the victim, whose name Doe said he did not know.

Deputy Prosecutor Michael C. Kinnie asked whether Ladner showed remorse for the killing. No, Doe said.

"He had one regret, though," Doe said.

What? Kinnie said.

"That he didn't kill her, too," said the man, who testified under an assumed name to help ensure he is not harmed or killed in prison for "snitching" on a fellow inmate. Prosecutors and officials of the Department of Corrections are taking exceptional measures to hide the man's identity.

Ladner, who is deaf but can read lips and speak, is on trial for the second time for the February 2000 murder of Alexander W. Smith, 19. Smith had been the roommate of Ladner's lover, Kimber Douglas, 25.

Douglas testified Wednesday that she was bothered by memories of the murder and went to police in 2001. She said she acted as a lookout but that Ladner stabbed, then shot, Smith. She is serving an 81/2-year sentence for her role.

Ladner was acquitted earlier this year of a charge of felony murder -- killing someone in the course of committing another felony, such as robbery -- in Smith's death, but the jury deadlocked on the charge of first-degree, or premeditated, murder, triggering the retrial.

Doe said he told prison officials in March 2001 about Ladner's remarks and pending plans to have Douglas killed either in Vancouver or Spokane, where her mother lived.

"Once I realized a life was at stake, I felt like I had to do something," Doe said. "I've seen a lot of things in prison and kept my mouth shut. At the time, I felt her life was on my hands, and that's why I came forward."

Doe said he worked with an attorney in Seattle to put safety measures in place for his testimony but that he did not receive any money or additional good-time, which would shorten his sentence in exchange for his testimony.

Jeff Barrar, Ladner's attorney, countered that Doe did receive a guarantee that he would remain at the Twin Rivers Correctional Unit in Monroe if he testified.

"Staying in the same prison -- I don't think that's much of a benefit," Doe said.

Under Barrar's cross-examination, Doe admitted that at first he pushed Ladner for details of the murder "for entertainment" because he thought Ladner lied by saying he was at a party the night of the murder and couldn't have done it. Later, when Ladner planned to have Douglas killed, he went to prison officials, he said.

According to Doe, Ladner admitted that he and Douglas took a knife and a .22-caliber handgun and went to Smith's apartment. Doe said Ladner described sneaking up on Smith from behind and stabbing him in the neck.

When Smith attempted to get up, Ladner said he put a pillow to Smith's head to muffle the noise and shot and killed him, Doe said.

Doe, a convicted murderer, said Ladner talked daily about the murder and Douglas. Doe said he knows details of the crime that could only come from the person who committed it, not a newspaper or Douglas, whom he has never met.

Holley Gilbert: 360-896-5721 or 503-294-5900;

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