Congress

Man charged in sword attack murder of Sen. Tester’s nephew gets mistrial

New evidence obtained in the case prompted a Spokane, Washington, judge to declare a mistrial earlier this month

Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., leaves the Capital Hilton hotel on Monday, Jan. 25, 2010. (CQ/Roll Call file photo)

New evidence obtained in the case against a man accused of killing the nephew of Montana Sen. Jon Tester prompted a Spokane, Washington, judge to declare a mistrial earlier this month.

One day into the trial of John A. Radavich, 24, who is accused of breaking into Tester’s home and murdering Robert J. Tester, 35, in a sword attack, Superior Court Judge Maryann Moreno called a mistrial at the request of defense attorney Douglas Pierce. Radavich’s attorney argued the introduction of new evidence by prosecutors necessitated a new trial, The Spokesman-Review in Spokane reported.

While reviewing the case file to give testimony at the trial earlier this month, a sheriff’s detective found a text message from the alleged killer’s ex-girlfriend to another man on the night of Tester’s murder that had never been shared with Radavich’s defense for review. Moreno called the text message “extremely significant” for the defense.

Prosecutors did not object to the filing motioning for a mistrial. The judge set a new trial for August.

On Sept. 6, 2016, Tester’s then-8-year-0ld daughter called her grandmother to tell her a stranger had broken into their Spangle, Washington, home and killed her father, according to court documents cited in the Spokesman-Review.

Spangle is an Eastern Washington town of roughly 300 people, located about 20 miles outside Spokane.

When Spokane County Sheriff’s deputies arrived at the house, they found blood in Tester’s bedroom and throughout the house. Tester had been stabbed and received blunt-force wounds, including a blow to the back of the head by a firewood-splitting maul. 

Nearly four months passed without detectives appearing to solve the case. That changed when Radavich called a friend in Texas on June 26, 2016, and laid out — on a recorded call — how he had killed Tester under the notion that Tester had sexually assaulted a 17-year-old girl that Radavich previously dated, court documents said.

“I thought about it and prayed about it. I finally said I’ve had enough,” Radavich reportedly said on the recorded message. “I took care of it. I killed a man.”

Radavich revealed to his friend on the phone that the only other person he told of the murder was the former girlfriend, because he needed her to “help cover my tracks.”

Contents of the text message sent from the former girlfriend to a man identified in court documents as Christopher Santucci have not been revealed, according to The Spokesman-Review.

The defense will interview the former girlfriend May 10 about the text exchange.

The new trial will begin on August 12.

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