Meet the Montana man using castle doctrine to defend killing with impunity

Markus Kaarma of Montana was arrested and charged with a felony for the murder of Diren Dede, a 17-year-old exchange student from Hamburg, Germany on Sunday April 27. The case is complicated by Montana’s “castle doctrine,” which was misconstrued in Kaarma’s defense. Kaarma’s attorney Paul Ryan argued in court that his client was protected under the “castle doctrine,” – essentially Montana’s version of Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law. It posits that homeowners may use deadly force when they are threatened with physical harm in their home. It does not, however, state that you may intentionally lure someone into your home for the purpose of killing them. As such, Kaarma should receive the maximum allowable sentence for premeditated homicide.

In response to a string of recent burglaries, Kaarma and his wife, Janelle Pflaeger, opted to set up a trap in an attempt to lure any would-be burglars into their garage. They set up motion sensors outside, put a video camera in the garage and left the door open with a purse intentionally in sight. When the sensors went off Sunday night, Kaarma went out to the garage and opened fire on the unsuspecting Dede.

This would be entrapment if it were the police being indicted rather than Kaarma. Entrapment is when a law enforcement agent induces a person to commit a criminal act that the person would not have committed otherwise. It is possible that Dede was curious and wandered into the garage because it was left open, not because he intended to burglarize the house.

An interesting aspect of this case is the inconsistency of the evidence. Pflaeger told police she “used the baby monitor to see that a suspect was rummaging through the garage.” Meanwhile, Kaarma told investigators that he did not see anyone, but heard a noise and feared the intruder would hurt him.

How is it possible that Pflaeger was able to see the intruder on a baby monitor, but Kaarma could not see Dede a few feet in front of him? If it was that dark, Pflaeger should not have been able to see anything on the baby monitor either.

The fact that Kaarma blindly fired multiple times without any idea who or what was in the room is startling in itself. What if it was a neighborhood pet, a curious child or a confused senior citizen that wandered in? Kaarma clearly believes in shooting first and asking questions later.

“It wasn’t his intent to kill,” Ryan argued. “It happened very quickly, and unfortunately a young man lost his life.”

First, people with no intent to kill do not blindly fire a shotgun multiple times into their garage. Second, and contrary to his lawyer’s argument, it has been reported that before the incident, Kaarma told his hairstylist that he had been waiting up for multiple nights in an attempt to catch the burglar.

“I’m just waiting to shoot some f–ing kid,” he said.

Kaarma should not be protected under the castle doctrine because he willingly created the situation that let the burglar into his house. He did not yet know whom, but he knew he was going to kill someone.

Kaarma’s statement, coupled with the fact that he and his wife set out to intentionally lure someone into their garage indicates that this is a clear case of premeditated murder. In this case, the prosecution should seek the maximum possible sentence.