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Neighbor speaks about murder victim at Sackett trial

Brad Williams

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The jury at a La Crosse murder trial hears from a neighbor of the presumed murder victim.

Irina Gebhardt testified Thursday about her last encounters with neighbor Erin Somvilai in June of 2018.

On the last day that she saw Erin alive, Gebhardt also talked with Erin’s boyfriend, Erik Sackett, who is accused in her death.

Gebhardt says Sackett “seemed awfully happy,” on the same day that Somvilai found him with another woman.

“He was always very nice, but considering what happened days earlier, I thought it was a little weird,” said Gebhardt.

Sackett’s defense attorney Christopher Zachar argues that Erin was suicidal for much of that last weekend, following a fight with Gebhardt which led to Erin being arrested and taken to jail.

Throughout the trial this week, Zachar has argued that Erin may have killed herself, and he points to missed opportunities for police to solve a missing person case.

Somvilai was reported missing on June 4th, 2018, and her body turned up in Runge Hollow Lake two weeks later.

Zachar questioned La Crosse police investigator Brooke Pataska about videos and photos that appeared to show Sackett’s truck around the time that Somvilai disappeared.

Zachar suggests that police waited too long to ask for security videos which might have shown Sackett or Somvilai somewhere near that lake.

FBI geological expert Maureen Bottrell tested the concrete blocks found tied to Somvilai’s body, and concluded that although the blocks resembled ones at Sackett’s home, dirt and mortar showed that they did not come from his property.

A native of Prairie du Chien, Brad graduated from UW - La Crosse and has worked in radio news for more than 30 years, mostly in the La Crosse area. He regularly covers local courts and city and county government. Brad produces the features "Yesterday in La Crosse" and "What's Buried on Brad's Desk." He also writes the website "Triviazoids," which finds odd connections between events that happen on a certain date, and he writes and performs with the local comedy group Heart of La Crosse. Brad been featured on several national TV programs because of his memory skills.

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