Children of both the victim and the defendant were called to the stand Tuesday as the trial of Stephen Robert Falkenberg continued into the second day of testimony.
Falkenberg is facing two charges: one of second-degree murder and one of first-degree manslaughter in the death of Tamara LaFramboise of Yankton, who was killed March 1 last year in her apartment in Yankton. Some of her dismembered remains were found in Michigan two weeks later.
Called to the stand Tuesday were Falkenberg’s kids — Sebastian Falkenberg and Marissa Leutjen.
Sebastian told prosecutors that he was aware that LaFramboise and his father were friends. Sebastian said that during a March 16 meeting between him, his sister and Falkenberg, he asked his father what had happened and was told that there had been an argument regarding cheating.
When the defense asked him about how Falkenberg was as a parent, Sebastian — despite admitting he could be some trouble on his own — painted a picture of a father that was non-confrontational who didn’t even take to spanking and never showed any sign of violence towards him or other members of the family.
Leutjen shared a similar story of her father when asked by the defense, saying that he “always made it known he was proud of me.” She said that he wasn’t abusive and never witnessed him getting into a heated argument.
She added that her initial impressions of LaFramboise were positive, but soon changed. According to Leutjen, LaFramboise displayed strange behavior to a point that she raised concerns with her father and that her father was occasionally afraid of LaFramboise’s behavior.
Sebastian said that he never personally observed LaFramboise using meth, but that she could be prone to violence when intoxicated.
Also called up Tuesday were Tamara LaFramboise’s children — Ron and Sydney Sedillo.
Sydney noted that she had stayed with her mother for some months, leaving to go home to Albuquerque, New Mexico, shortly before her mother disappeared. She noted that her mother had struggled with meth addiction for some time, but had never been aware of any violent changes in her demeanor.
Ron also noted his mother’s struggles with methamphetamine, but said that the biggest change he noticed was a change in voice, rather than behavior, when she used the substance.
He said that LaFramboise was a warm person and was always happy to be around other people.
All four were asked at one point or another about the mention or presence of a baseball bat, which Falkenberg has claimed LaFramboise had attacked him with.
Both Ron and Sydney said that there was no baseball bat in LaFramboise’s apartment. Sebastian Falkenberg said his father didn’t mention a baseball bat during the March 16 meeting, while Leutjen said she couldn’t recall if her father said anything about being hit with a bat, but that self-defense was brought up.
Others testifying Tuesday included:
• Terri Thurman, who was once a romantic interest of Falkenberg’s and a long-term friend of his. She detailed phone exchanges with Falkenberg while he was traveling to Michigan in early March, helping book hotels for him and conversations the two of them had in the days after he returned and the disappearance of LaFramboise.
• Molly Raber of the state crime lab, who discussed DNA sampling and how the results were processed.
• Steve Wuebben of the Yankton County Sheriff’s Office, who detailed the early investigation efforts.
The trial continues today (Wednesday) beginning at 9 a.m.
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