SIOUX CITY -- Evidence presented at trial leaves no doubt that Tran Walker fatally stabbed his ex-girlfriend and a friend, according to the prosecution's closing brief.
"The state has proven beyond a reasonable doubt all of the elements necessary to prove charges of murder in the first degree for the killings of both (Paiten) Sullivan and (Felipe) Negron (Jr.)," First Assistant Woodbury County Attorney Mark Campbell said in his brief, filed Wednesday in Woodbury County District Court.
Before he died, Negron identified Walker as his attacker, Campbell said, and Walker admitted during an interview with police that he stabbed Sullivan and Negron both inside and outside a PT Cruiser while they were parked near South Cecelia Street and Jay Avenue.
At trial, Campbell showed a video of Walker's police interview in which he said he stabbed Sullivan several times.
"It was just repeatedly. ... I think all over," Walker told police. "Her face was bloody and then the front down was bloody. And then I think that's when Felipe pulled me out of the car, and I was stabbing him too. ... I think it was more than once."
Walker, 19, of Sioux City, is charged with two counts of first-degree murder for the Jan. 28, 2018, deaths of Sullivan, 17, and Negron, 18, both of Sioux City. Walker chose to have District Judge Tod Deck, rather than a jury, decide his case. At the conclusion of the three-day trial on May 6, Campbell and public defender Jennifer Solberg opted to submit written closing briefs rather than give oral closing arguments.
Solberg now has 10 days to submit her closing brief. Campbell will then have seven days to file a rebuttal. Deck will reach a verdict after all briefs have been submitted. If found guilty as charged, Walker would face a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole.
The state's deputy medical examiner testified that Sullivan was stabbed 43 times and Negron 17 times. Sullivan bled to death after a carotid artery in her neck was sliced, and Negron died of excessive bleeding from a stab wound through his chest that punctured his heart.
The number of stab wounds is proof that Walker acted with malice and intent to kill, another element needed to prove first-degree murder, Campbell said.
Further proof of premeditation, Campbell said, were a number of messages Walker sent to friends on Facebook that said if Sullivan were to break up with him, there would be severe consequences. In one message after their breakup, he told a friend that he wanted to hurt Sullivan.
"I want Paiten to feel pain," the message said.
At trial Solberg challenged the admission of the messages as evidence, arguing that it could not be proved who actually sent the messages, which she said were irrelevant. Deck agreed to withhold some of the messages but allowed others to be admitted.
After his interview with police, Walker led officers to a knife he said he dropped about a block from the scene. A state criminalist testified that blood found on the blade and handle of the knife contained the DNA of both Walker and Sullivan.
A knife police found on the front console inside the car contained a mixture of blood from three people, and only Sullivan's DNA could be positively identified on the blade. Negron's blood was identified on the knife's handle and Walker's DNA was found on Negron's fingernails. Sullivan's blood also was found on Walker's jacket.