Parents of slain 14-year-old testify at murder trial in Fargo
A medical examiner also took the stand Tuesday in the trial of Arthur Kollie and testified that Jupiter Paulsen died from strangulation. Kollie is charged with murder, robbery and aggravated assault in connection to the 14-year-old's death last year.
FARGO — The parents of a 14-year-old Fargo girl who died after a random attack last year testified Tuesday, Sept. 13, in the trial of the man accused of killing her.
"She was the heart and soul of so many people," Johnson said as she cried on the stand.
Paulsen and Johnson's testimony were some of the last to be presented by prosecutors in the Arthur Prince Kollie trial. Kollie, a 24-year-old who lived at a homeless shelter in Fargo, is accused of attacking Jupiter for nearly 30 minutes on June 4, 2021, in the Party City parking lot in south Fargo.
Kollie is charged with murder, robbery and aggravated assault in connection to Jupiter's death. The prosecution argued he stabbed Jupiter 25 times, kicked her and strangled her before fleeing the scene.
Doctors declared Jupiter brain dead, and the family chose to take her off life support. She died June 13, 2021.
The attack happened at about 6:30 a.m. June 4, 2021, as Jupiter traveled from her father's home to her mother's. It wasn't unusual for the girl to be up at that time, Paulsen testified.
Jupiter was respectful to adults but would avoid strangers, Paulsen said. Prosecutors showed a video that she posted to social media. In it, she said she hoped people were having a good day and told them to be themselves.
The girl would make others smile when they were having a bad day, Johnson said. Jupiter would make flower crowns for young girls, the mother said.
The day before the attack, Jupiter got her first paycheck from work, Paulsen said. She had plans to take her sister out to dinner on June 4, 2021, he said.
It would have taken about 25 minutes for Jupiter to get to her mother's home, Paulsen said.
Prosecutors showed Jupiter's last text message, which was sent to her mother at 6:31 a.m. June 4, 2021. The message "Ma" was sent as the attack began.
Jupiter sometimes sent single-word text messages to Johnson, like "Ma," and waited for the mother to respond. The mother said she didn’t see the message when it was sent because she overslept.
Johnson said she didn't see the message until after police told her Jupiter was stabbed. She then called Paulsen and told him to get to the hospital.
The parents found their unconscious daughter with multiple wounds, they said.
"I cried and told her we were going to get through this together," Johnson told jurors as she teared up.
Johnson said she kept telling her daughter they loved her and asked her to keep fighting.
Paulsen said he felt Jupiter would want them to donate her organs because she wanted to help others. Her organs saved four people, he said.
"I donated her organs because I don't want the last part of my kid to be murder," he said.
Strangulation caused delayed complications that resulted in Jupiter's death, former medical examiner Mark Kaponen said. The University of North Dakota forensic pathologist performed the autopsy on the girl.
The stab wounds were superficial, Kaponen said. The injuries came from a "very intense altercation," he said. The cuts also contributed to Jupiter's fatal complications.
Kaponen said it would be difficult to determine what knife caused the stab wounds. "When you have a suspect weapon, you look for evidence of blood," he said.
Police found a three-bladed cyclone knife in a dumpster behind Home Depot. Another dumpster next to that trash container had Kollie's bloodstained T-shirt, a backpack and Jupiter’s identification card, detectives said.
Prosecutors said Kollie tossed those items in dumpsters as he fled the crime scene. He also changed clothes in a Walmart before throwing bloodstained sweatpants and shoes into the trash at the store, according to prosecutors.
Blood found on Kollie’s sweatpants, shoes and shirt matched Jupiter’s DNA, said Amy Gebhardt, a forensic scientist with the North Dakota State Lab. Kollie’s DNA also was found on the shirt and sweatpants, she said.
There was no DNA on the knife that could be compared to Jupiter or Kollie, the forensic scientist said.
There are several reasons why a person who touches an item might not leave DNA on the object, Gebhardt said. Some people shed more DNA than others, and the climate and amount of pressure applied to an item also play a role, she said.
Fargo Police Detective Mark Voigtschild acknowledged there was no DNA evidence linking the knife to the crime, but he said it still could have been used to stab Jupiter. Blood could have been washed off the knife, or it is possible another knife was used but not found.
The knife was collected as evidence because it was in a dumpster next to a trash container that had bloodstained clothes and Jupiter's identification card, Voigtschild said.
"Sometimes a knife is just a knife," he said.
A sexual assault kit was collected from Jupiter as part of the investigation, but the state lab found no male DNA in those samples, Gebhardt said. That indicates Jupiter was not raped in the attack.
In a cross-examination of Kaponen, defense attorney Eric Baumann suggested the decision to take Jupiter off life support after she was declared brain dead by doctors caused her death. The medical examiner pushed back.
"When she was declared brain dead, she was dead," Kaponen said.
The prosecution planned to rest its case Tuesday, but it may call more witnesses if it needs to rebut the defense's evidence. The defense is expected to put on its case with at least three witnesses Wednesday.
Kollie will make a decision Wednesday on whether he will testify, Baumann said. If he doesn't, the defense could rest before noon, the lawyer said.
Baumann has said Kollie lacks criminal responsibility.
Baumann hasn't disclosed publicly how he plans to make that argument. Kollie has said he has multiple personality disorder, and he claims he doesn't remember the attack after he used meth the night before the attack.
If Kollie does testify, it could be lengthy, Baumann said.
Prosecutors likely will call a psychologist who will testify to Kollie's mental capacity during the attack.