Man accused in 'dog whisperer' murder claims self-defense


by JAKE WHITTENBERG / KING 5 News and Associated Press

Bio | Email | Follow: @jakewhittenberg

Posted on October 12, 2010 at 12:55 PM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 13 at 9:35 PM

MOUNT VERNON, Wash. - A man charged with murdering a dog trainer whose clients included some of Seattle's most famous residents took the witness stand in his own defense Tuesday and admitted he killed the man in self-defense.

Ten days into a contentious murder trial in Skagit County, defense attorneys for Michiel Oakes described in dramatic detail how local celebrity dog trainer Mark Stover was killed.

Oakes, 42, is the former bodyguard and boyfriend of Stover's ex-wife, Linda Opdycke. He is on trial in Skagit County Superior Court on murder charges.

Defense attorney Corbin Volluz said Oakes shot Stover in Stover's Anacortes-area home on Oct. 28, 2009, after a confrontation.  Volluz claimed Oakes was acting in self-defense because Stover had become increasingly dangerous, even threatening harm to Oakes and his family.

Volluz told jurors the dog trainer wasn't happy Oakes was dating his ex-wife . He said Stover had confronted Oakes outside a Costco in Kennewick, made threats against Oakes' children, and even stalked the couple when they took a trip to Montana.
Oakes described in dramatic detail how he says mark Stover was killed one year ago.

"He fell ... and I was left holding the gun... and … I stood there covering him for a minute with the gun ... and he didn't move at all,” said Oakes.

Oakes says he loaded up Stover’s body in the back of his car then dumped the body into a waterway near the Swinomish Northern Lights Casino.

"I got my car as close to that as possible and muscled him out and dropped him in the water,” said Oakes.

Stover trained dogs for the rich and famous out of his Anacortes-area home.

Oakes was dating Stover's ex-wife and says in the months leading up to the murder, Stover became increasingly obsessed, demanding old wedding pictures from his ex-wife, causing Oakes to fear for his own safety.

"I was to meet him at the Northgate Mall and bring them to him and everything would be OK with me and my kids,” said Oakes.

Oakes says he couldn't find any pictures, but still agreed to meet Stover at his home.

“He came around the corner with a gun in one hand ... he pointed it at me ... and the look on his face ... he didn't say anything,” said Oakes.

As part of his testimony, Oakes put on the bulletproof vest he was wearing that night and demonstrated what happened. Oakes says he tackled Stover as Stover shot his gun, and Stover died.

After that, Oakes says he didn’t know what to do.

"I’m not sure how long I sat there,” said a tearful Oakes.

It's unclear whether it was Stover's own gun that shot and killed him. Shell casings were found at the scene belonging to Oakes' gun, but he says he used his gun to shoot the dog.

The prosecution is expected to cross-examine Oakes Wednesday. Opdycke, is also expected to testify Wednesday.

Stover was a dog trainer whose clients included grunge rock stars, Starbucks chairman Howard Schultz and Mariners outfielder Ichiro Suzuki. He disappeared a year ago; his body has not been found.
Skagit County Sheriff Office Chief Criminal Deputy Will Reichardt said searchers scoured the area near the Swinomish Casino within days of the homicide. Reichardt said the search was conducted using boats and underwater cameras at various times during various tides.

The trial is expected to last several more days.