NELIGH, Neb. — Hours before he allegedly killed a newlywed couple, Matthew Hinrichsen was living it up at two northeast Nebraska bars, buying drinks, flirting with women and gambling, witnesses testified.
During the first day of testimony Monday in Hinrichsen's double murder trial in Antelope County District Court here, the prosecution called 15 witnesses, several of whom said they drank with Hinrichsen or served him alcohol on Dec. 7, 2012, at bars in Orchard and Ewing.
Hinrichsen, 33, of Ewing is accused of killing his former girlfriend Victoria Lee, 25, and her new husband, Alex Vargas, early Dec. 8 and setting fire to the trailer in which they lived.
Hinrichsen “decided if he couldn't have her, nobody could,” attorney Sandra Allen of the Nebraska Attorney General's Office contended in opening statements Monday. Allen is the prosecutor in the case.
Todd Lancaster of the Nebraska Public Advocacy Commission said he would not dispute that Hinrichsen caused the deaths, nor would he and fellow attorney Pat Carney of Norfolk, Neb., dispute much of the DNA or ballistics evidence.
But Lancaster said he wants the jury to consider whether this truly was a “coldblooded premeditated murder.”
Lancaster said something happened that night, possibly something in the heat of passion, that caused Hinrichsen to lose control.
Natalie Walton, who now lives and works in Norfolk, said she was working at J.D.'s Bar in Orchard. She recalled serving Hinrichsen mixed drinks. She estimated that he spent $200 playing keno.
“He said, 'I can't take it to the grave,' ” she said.
Hinrichsen initially was flirtatious with her, she said, but later seemed angry and started throwing things at her — pens, straws, pennies and other items on the bar.
Walton said Hinrichsen came in about 5 p.m. and left “around 8 or 9” that night.
Kim Funk, a bartender working at DW's Pub in Ewing that night, said Hinrichsen came in about 10 p.m. He ordered a double shot of Royal Crown with Coke, Funk said, so she asked him if he had a bad night.
Also at DW's that night was a classmate of Hinrichsen's, Cristan Kurpgeweit of Neligh.
Hinrichsen appeared drunk, was slurring his words and buying others drinks, “which was a little unusual,” Kurpgeweit said.
Hinrichsen told Kurpgeweit that he had bought a gun.
“I believe he said an AK-47,” Kurpgeweit said.
He said Hinrichsen asked him if he wanted to see it, but he declined.
Also Monday, Victoria Lee's mother, Susan Lee of Missouri Valley, Iowa, and the jury listened as an emergency 911 tape was played.
Lee identified her daughter's voice on the tape as well as a male voice she said was Hinrichsen, who previously dated her daughter.
Obscenities could be heard from the male voice, along with a woman's voice frantically asking the dispatcher for help and saying, “Please stop.”
The defense was expected to start calling witnesses Tuesday.