Sunday Commentary: Prosecution’s Case Makes Clear Gilligan Lied to Investigators; The Question Is Why

Murder suspect Hayley Gilligan with former Attorney Mark Reichel in late October

For the purposes of a preliminary hearing, the evidence against Hayley Gilligan is overwhelming.  She gave information both on the phone to 911 as well as in her initial statement to investigators that was directly and very easily contradicted by the physical evidence.

The prosecutor had a basic job during the preliminary hearing – to show this.  Lead prosecutor Steve Mount went further and tied circumstantial evidence from witness accounts and the text messages to paint a very different picture from what the defendant had claimed.

He argued that Jamie Kinseth “most likely was asleep on the couch downstairs when Hayley Gilligan came downstairs and shot him at a range of a foot to six inches.”

“He was shot in the head at very close range,” he reiterated.

The DA showed on Thursday and Friday, really beyond any doubt, that Hayley Gilligan’s story did not match the physical evidence found at her one bedroom apartment – not the claims that Mr. Kinseth was not living there, that he broke in, that he pulled a knife and that she was forced to defend herself by shooting him.

This and evidence derived from talking to witnesses and friends allowed the DA to frame another also fairly compelling narrative.

Steve Mount in his closing arguments argued that she wanted out of the relationship, she couldn’t figure out how to do that, and so “she chose to end the relationship by ending Mr. Kinseth’s life. 

“This is not a sudden thing that happened,” he said.  “This is something that she planned.”

While the DA and some of our readers stopped there – we must remember that the defense really did not put on evidence here.  There is a simple reason as Deputy Public Defender Joseph Gocke pointed out – the burden of proof to get a holding order in a preliminary hearing is low and was clearly met by the DA presenting evidence that negated her initial statement to Davis police officers.

Caution is in order here because we only know half the story.  As Mr. Gocke pointed out, he could explain “what a domestic violence relationship entails.

“But I know this isn’t a trial,” he said.  “I know this is a preliminary hearing.  I know what the burden of proof is and so I’m not going to talk for ten minutes and present my full arguments today.  I’m going to submit to the court to issue a ruling.”

The narrative Steve Mount constructed fits the facts as laid out very well.  She very clearly lied to investigators about what happened.  And the DA’s office went to great lengths showing us that she had set up her alibi over a period of time.

On September 30, she attended a Giants game with some friends and confided about troubles with Mr. Kinseth and that he was stalking her.  All the while text messages downloaded from her phone for at least a month show that they “were in a cohabitating relationship.”

“One could question whether it was healthy, whether it was co-dependent, or anything else,” he said, but “she certainly expressed to Mr. Kinseth affection.”  As did he toward her.

A few days later, however, she purchased a gun and it took two weeks to complete the purchase, on October 17.  She just happened to get the gun a few days before she would fatally shoot him.

There is a tendency here to stop.  We have a theory that happens to fit the facts, but really the only proof that the DA offers here is that the story she gave was false.

There remains a lot of unanswered questions. 

Judge Richardson asked a critical question that the DA does not answer – why would she pick a day when her family is planning to go on a trip to Disneyland with her family coming over, why “would that be the time when you choose to shoot someone in the head that you were living with?

“We don’t have the answer to that question,” he said. 

But for the purposes of a trial and proof beyond a reasonable doubt, I think we need more than that she fabricated her story – badly I’ll add, as it was completely transparent.  As Mr. Gocke pointed out during cross-examination of Officer Bestpitch, it is not as though Ms. Gilligan planted a knife on Mr. Kinseth’s body.

Frankly, we do not know enough about the nature of their relationship.  The text messages from the past month really do not tell the tale. 

The judge pointed out they seemed to have had a corrigible relationship based on the testimony of people who knew them.  But we also know that Ms. Gilligan and Mr. Kinseth had broken up, that her relationship with him was strained and complex, and there were signs of trouble.

One sign that came out during the hearing was Mr. Kinseth’s response to her wanting him to go to a hotel – at her expense – when a family member needed to stay over.  His response was to use the “c—t” word, purportedly at least 50 times.

Moreover, we have accounts from previous neighbors at their K Street address that they would get into arguments that were disruptive enough that neighbors were both aware and complaining.

This is really not explored deeply during the preliminary hearing, and one could argue it was glossed over by the prosecution, but it would appear to be something we need to understand better to assess the crime.

The biggest question that is never explained here is “why.”  Sure, the DA argues that this was her manner of ending a relationship that was troubled, but there is something wholly unsatisfying with that explanation.

By all accounts Ms. Gilligan had no kind of criminal history or even a hint of it.  She had gainful employment as an occupational therapist for the Woodland School District.  She went to graduate school and had a healthy circle of friends.

She was described as kind, private and reserved.

How does someone go from that to premeditated murder?  The defense largely played possum at the preliminary hearing.  One possibility is that they simply had nothing to refute the overwhelming case put on by the prosecutor.  If so, we would expect a quick plea agreement to be struck.

But there is another possibility and that is that Mr. Gocke will lay out a case of domestic abuse over time.  Can he show enough to either defend the crime or mitigate it?  We’ll have to see.  He certainly hinted at the possibility during his brief remarks.

At a time when we have become much more aware of the impact of domestic violence, we now have a troubling case where a young and apparently successful woman felt trapped enough to potentially end two people’s lives – the life of Mr. Kinseth taken away at a young age while her own is forever upended.  We still don’t know why, even if we have a better idea as to what happened.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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2 thoughts on “Sunday Commentary: Prosecution’s Case Makes Clear Gilligan Lied to Investigators; The Question Is Why”

  1. Bill Marshall

    Prosecution’s Case Makes Clear Gilligan Lied to Investigators; The Question Is Why

    Seeking clarification, David… why she lied (I think that is obvious on several levels)[and may lead to a ‘defense’ on a different level], or why she, admittedly, shot and killed him?
    Not clear… as to ‘headline’.

    We will never conclusively [beyond all reasonable doubt] know WHY a certain person shot and killed Officer Corona.  But he will not be ‘tried’ except in the media…
    Just saying…

    1. David Greenwald Post author

      I intentionally left that a little vague because both are important questions. You’re correct that we may never know. However it is imperative that the defense provides an alternative narrative if they want anything but a conviction.

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