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The Indiana Daily Student

crime & courts

Angle convicted in 2011 murder

Lauren Kahn was stabbed to death while working a night she wasn’t even scheduled to work Nov. 14, 2011.

Friday, her killer, Michael Angle Jr., 28, was found guilty of voluntary manslaughter and felony murder. He faces 45 to 65 years in jail.

The 6-foot-2 man showed no emotion as the verdict was read.

A jury in the Monroe County Circuit Court reached the verdict Friday evening after about three hours of deliberation and three days of evidence, testimony and
argumentation.

The trial wasn’t about proving Angle killed Kahn.

His attorney acknowledged in opening statements that there were clear facts proving Angle committed the murder. Rather, the defense had to prove Angle was insane at the time of the murder and unable to distinguish right from wrong.

Angle had entered an insanity defense. He testified in court Friday that he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder caused by his time training for the United States Army.

“I’m not the kind of person who is violent,” Angle said.

On the night of the murder, Angle turned himself in to police. He brought with him a bag filled with the clothes he wore during the murder, wet with Kahn’s blood.

“I knew that what I did was wrong ... ” he told Bloomington Police Department Detective Rick Crussen during a taped interrogation that evening. “I knew it was wrong right away ... ”

* * *

“Please hurry. Please hurry.”

“Where are you bleeding?”

“Everywhere. ... I’m going to die.” Moments passed. The female dispatcher asked Kahn a question. There was no response.

Kahn initiated the 911 call, which was played at the trial Thursday. She would not finish it.

“Are you still with me?” Silence.

Kahn, 47, was working at the now-closed Garden of Eden adult entertainment shop, 756 S. Walnut St., on the night of Nov. 14, 2011, when Angle entered the store.

A few hours earlier, Angle was awaking from a day-long sleep in his room at his mother’s home. He had spent much of the last two or three days in his room.

That evening, he slipped out of the house to do some Christmas shopping for his army buddies, he said during his testimony Friday.

He eventually arrived at the Garden of Eden. The store was empty, save for Kahn working behind the counter.

There were glass tobacco pipes among the plethora of porn. One particular pipe caught his interest, Angle testified Friday. He called Kahn over and she came to his side.

That’s the last thing Angle testified he remembers before he “came to” and was standing over her wounded body with the bloody Gerber folding knife in hand.

A neighbor entered the store moments after hearing Kahn’s screams. Angle chased the man out the door, taking no inventory or money from the shop.

Bloomington police were dispatched at 10:29 p.m. Bloomington Police Officer Jeff Rees entered the Garden of Eden to find Kahn face up with fallen DVDs scattered around her body. Blood flowed from Kahn’s wounds, soaking her clothes and pooling beneath her.

One stab wound on her left breast nicked her heart. Another on her back punctured the upper lobe of her lung.

A trail of more than 20 stab wounds dotted her left side. Her face, neck and arm bore slash marks, some almost an inch deep.

“There were too many to apply direct pressure,” Rees testified in court. Kahn was drawing just one to three breaths each minute.

As Rees testified, she was “barely alive.”

* * *

 A pastor — that was his vision for his future. Angle attended college twice, working as a janitor and residential assistant, but never graduated because of money
problems.

Student debt amassing, plus an admiration for the armed forces, drew Angle to enlist in the military. He smiled Friday morning on the stand when recounting his Army training exercises.

Just 11 days into basic training, Angle injured his back during a combat exercise. It wasn’t long before he learned he would not deploy with his unit.

“I took it really hard,” he said Friday.

Angle was honorably discharged from the Army in Aug. 2011.  He came to Bloomington and moved in to his mother’s house.

His mother testified that he seemed withdrawn and detached.

Some of his army buddies who were returning home from battle “ostracized him,” Angle said in court. He had worried about them and had prayed for them.

He sought out his father, who advised him to seek help. Angle drove to the VA hospital in Indianapolis only to find it closed.

The date was Nov. 11., Veterans Day. Three days later, Kahn would be dead.
She was not meant to work the night of her murder, her best friend Kelsy Benckart said. The woman scheduled to work had quit a few days earlier.

The Garden of Eden wasn’t her main job. Kahn first worked at the store for a period when the recession hit to make extra money. The medical industry was her passion.
At the time of her murder, Kahn had a steady job in radiology and was working toward a medical coding degree.

She only returned to the Garden of Eden after its owners, dealing with sudden medical emergencies, asked her to train new employees, Benckart said.

And with Christmas approaching, Benckart said, Kahn welcomed the extra money.

She had wanted to make it a special first Christmas for her new baby grandson.

“She would talk about how children need magic in their lives,” Benckart said.

Kahn, or “La-La” as her friends’ children called her, never missed a birthday. She was out in full force on Halloween. If a child told her about a rainbow in a dream, Kahn wanted to know what it looked like.

Benckart said Kahn was known as a hard worker who gave selflessly to friends and family.

“If I had a lifetime to repay the things Lauren did for me,” Benckart said, “I wouldn’t even come close.”

* * *

Angle’s mother, Teresa Montes, a blonde woman who sat in the back row of the courtroom for most of the trial, lifted her hands to her lips and sent her son a kiss.

Montes testified as a witness for the defense Thursday afternoon. Hours earlier, she wept in the back row upon hearing Kahn’s 911 call, dampening the white napkin scrunched in her grasp.

“Were you there for him a lot as a child?” the defense attorney asked.

She looked at her son, face contorting, and mouthed a clear, “I’m so sorry.” The first tears of her testimony began to fall.

Angle’s parents had divorced when he was 7. Angle lived mostly with his father.
During her testimony, she recalled her son on the night of the murder. Covered in blood, he told her and his siblings what he had done.

Montes couldn’t believe it, she said. Angle suggested turning himself in to the police. Montes agreed.

“I didn’t want to,” she said, “but I knew I had to.”

* * *

Chris Gaal, Monroe County prosecutor, began his opening statements with a PowerPoint slide showing two quotes.

“I knew that what I did was wrong ... ”

“I knew it was wrong right away ... ”

Gaal used Angle’s quote to discredit the insanity defense, saying Angle was able to judge right from wrong when he murdered Kahn.

And differing from his taped interrogation with Detective Crussen, Angle testified at the trial he at no point intended to rob the shop, let alone murder Kahn.

He denied remembering any details of the stabbing.

During his testimony, some of his statements drew the ire of Lauren’s friends and family. They shook their heads as they passed around a notepad and pen to communicate during the trial.

Upon cross-examination, Monroe County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Bob Miller questioned Angle’s changing of his story.

Miller noted Angle’s original claim of wanting to rob the store after he realized Kahn was alone.

If Angle had blacked out, Miller questioned, how, then, did he display to Detective Crussen how he stuck the knife in Lauren and recall Kahn begging him, “not again”?
“I was trying to figure out what had happened,” Angle said. It was “brainstorming” to fill in the blanks in his mind.

“I guess you were just lucky that all those facts you just made up turned out to be true,” Miller said, concluding his cross-examination.

Two court appointed medical experts testified last and spoke on the legitimacy of Angle’s insanity claims.

Psychiatrist Dr. Jerry Neff testified that Angle displayed certain elements of PTSD, but he did not qualify for a full-blown diagnosis.

Psychologist Dr. Mark Hickman said he believed there was significant reason to conclude Angle was not completely sane when he committed the murder.

Hickman added that in addition to PTSD, Angle was depressed about his inability to serve overseas, his ostracization by friends and his financial issues.

But when the prosecution asked about an exact trigger on the night of the murder, Hickman had no answer.

“I don’t think the killing makes logical sense.”

* * *

Kahn’s three siblings had to leave to fly back home to the East Coast before verdict was read. They were in flight when the judge read the two guilty verdicts.

Benckart and a few other friends of Kahn were in the front row, as they had been for the entirety of the trial. They sat in the same seats where they had learned the specific, bloody details of the murder that they had waited nearly two years to discover.

Angle’s mother was not present in the courtroom.

When the verdict was read, Angle showed no sign of emotion. He did not look back as he shuffled his chained feet out the door.

Benckart, who also served as a witness in the trial, said her main focus was the trail and the verdict, not the sentence.

“I think in a crime like this, no matter what the sentence is, there’s no way to right the wrong,” Benckart said. “No one could ever bring her back.”

It has not yet been decided if Angle will be eligible to go before the parole board.

But if it happens?

She’ll be there.

Follow reporter

 Matthew Glowicki on Twitter @mattglo.

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