Markus Kaarma (L) and defence attorney Paul Ryan leave
Missoula County District Court in Missoula, Montana.
A Montana man who admitted to police he shot and killed a
German exchange student who entered his garage has pleaded not
guilty to a homicide charge in a case expected to test the
state's "Castle Doctrine" self-defence law.
Missoula homeowner Markus Kaarma is charged with deliberate
homicide in last month's slaying of 17-year-old Diren Dede of
Hamburg, who authorities said was killed while "garage
hopping" in a possible search for alcohol.
German officials have expressed outrage at the killing, and
the teen's father suggested in an interview with a German
news agency that US gun culture was at least partly to blame
for his son's death.
Defence attorney Paul Ryan has said his client would invoke
Montana's "Castle Doctrine" as a defence, which allows use of
force to defend against a home invasion if the person inside
reasonably believes it is necessary to prevent an assault.
State legislation places the burden of proof for "justifiable
use of force" with prosecutors, Ryan said.
On the night of the shooting, Dede and a fellow exchange
student from Ecuador were walking along the street when Dede
approached Kaarma's garage, the Ecuadorean told police in an
The Ecuadorean student assumed Dede was looking for alcohol
and started to walk away, court papers said. He then heard an
unfamiliar man's voice and four gunshots and began to run,
the court papers said.
A former US Forest Service firefighter whose house had
recently been burglarized, Kaarma was alerted to Dede's
presence by motion sensors and a video monitor installed
after the burglaries.
Prosecutors say he walked outside and fired a shotgun into
his darkened garage, killing Dede, who according to court
documents had been visiting Montana for a single school term
and staying with a host family two houses away.
Kaarma, 29, could receive a prison sentence of between 10 and
100 years if convicted. He declined to answer questions
Kaarma remains free on $30,000 bail, after the judge in the
case declined a prosecutor's request to raise his bail to
$500,000. The prosecutor had called Kaarma a danger to the
The judge set the next hearing in the case for June 25.