Murder suspect David “Dave” Kobak drank beer all day before he shot his friend eight times. But just how drunk was he?
On Monday Suzanne Perry, an analytical chemist hired to testify as a defense expert in Kobak’s jury trial, estimated Kobak’s blood alcohol level at between .178 and .276 when he killed 59-year-old Frederick “Fred” Loftus.
Kobak tested at .147 when his blood was drawn about three hours after the shooting, which occurred about 6 p.m. on Aug. 25, 2017. Perry, under questioning by Deputy Public Defender Casey Russo, testified she used a standard formula to calculate backward from the .147. She based her test on assuming Kobak was “a 75-year-old alcoholic male who started drinking at noon and drank throughout the day on an empty stomach.”
At a blood alcohol level between .178 and .276, a person could have symptoms ranging from trouble walking and talking to experiencing a complete alcoholic blackout, Perry said.
Kobak told Ron Harpham, a Eureka Police Department senior detective, that he was cooking dinner when Loftus insulted him and hit him two or three times in the face. He said he walked from the kitchen to his bedroom and picked up his fully loaded semiautomatic rifle. When Loftus started “giving me some shit,” he opened fire.
Testifying on his own behalf, the 77-year-old Kobak said he his only memory of the shooting was hearing two or three pops of gunfire, then looking down to see Loftus dead on the floor. Kobak says he has zero recollection of his interview with Harpham. During the interview Kobak confessed repeatedly to shooting Loftus.
During an aggressive cross-examination Monday, Deputy District Attorney Whitney Timm challenged Perry on her conclusions, methods and motives.
Timm suggested Kobak’s blood sample could have been fermented, causing the alcohol level to be higher. But Perry said the EPD and local Department of Justice lab were professional in handling the sample, refrigerating it immediately. She said it’s not unusual for a sample to be left “in the back of a squad car” and “not tested for four months.”
Timm also said Kobak’s stomach wasn’t empty, as he ate peanuts while at Ernie’s bar for several hours on the day of the shooting. There has been no testimony about how many peanuts Kobak ate.
The prosecutor also pointed out that about an hour after the shooting, two breathalyzer tests showed Kobak’s blood alcohol at .16. So the blood alcohol decreased between then and the 9 p.m. blood draw.
Perry was adamant that breath tests are not a factor with the standard formula for retroactively estimating blood alcohol.
“They don’t correlate because breath alcohol and blood alcohol are not interchangeable,” she said. “They come from different places.”
Timm also asked about how much Perry was paid to testify for the defense. Perry said she is paid $150 per hour, an amount set by the state, and has probably put in about 20 hours of research and testimony. When Timm continued to press for details, Judge Greg Elvine-Kreis told her “It’s not relevant. Let’s move on.”
Testimony was expected to continue this morning, with jurors told to arrive at 9:15.
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