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“It was just so bizarre”: Daughter of girlfriend testifies in missing woman murder trial

Published: Feb. 23, 2021 at 7:51 AM CST
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - Day five of testimony in the Brown County missing woman murder focused on inconsistencies in the stories told by James Prokopovitz after his wife went missing.

Prokopovitz, 75, is standing trial on charges of 1st Degree Intentional Homicide, Resisting or Obstructing and Perjury.

The perjury charge alleges James Prokopovitz lied to officials during a John Doe hearing.

Also, the daughter of Kathy Friday testified. Prokopovitz dated Kathy after Victoria’s disappearance.

“It was just so bizarre,” said Jennifer Friday. “She said there are quarries around the area, lots of vegetation, hopefully a hunter will find her [Victoria]. The way she said it, I was so taken aback by her coldness.”

Action 2 News is livestreaming the trial. You can watch here: https://www.wbay.com/livestream3/ (NOTE: We may break away for other news coverage.) Follow Sarah Thomsen on Twitter for live updates. Court begins at 8:30 a.m.

Prosecutors say Prokopovitz killed his wife, Victoria. Her body has never been located. On April 25, 2013, Victoria disappeared from the Prokopovitz home in a rural area of Kunesh Road in the Town of Pittsfield. The defense says Victoria had a history of mental illness and suicide attempts and argues she may have taken her own life.

On Monday, Victoria’s psychiatrist testified that he did not consider her to be suicidal. He treated her for five years, but had not seen her in the months leading up to her disappearance.

Testimony has covered several topics, from searches to sludge ponds, James’s demeanor and work history, and emotional testimony from Victoria’s children.

DAY 4 TESTIMONY: https://www.wbay.com/2021/02/22/testimony-continues-monday-in-missing-woman-murder-trial/

DAY 3 TESTIMONY: https://www.wbay.com/2021/02/17/more-witnesses-to-be-called-on-day-3-of-missing-woman-murder-trial/

DAY 2 TESTIMONY: https://www.wbay.com/2021/02/16/watch-live-more-witness-testimony-set-for-day-2-of-missing-woman-murder-trial/

DAY 1 TESTIMONY AND OPENING STATEMENTS: https://www.wbay.com/2021/02/15/opening-statements-monday-in-brown-county-missing-woman-homicide-trial/

DAY 5 TESTIMONY

Licensed private detective Larry Warwick takes the stand. In 2014, he was asked to help investigate the Victoria Prokopovitz disappearance. He says he volunteered to help the family.

Warwick met with Victoria’s daughter Marsha Loritz. He then met with lead investigator Sgt. Roman Aronstein of the Brown County Sheriff’s Office. Aronstein provided police reports to Warwick so he could assist with the investigation.

Warwick recorded an interview with James Prokopovitz and Victoria’s children, and portions of the interview were played for the jury on Tuesday.

In the recording, James Prokopovitz tells Warwick that he locked up Victoria’s medication, but she knew where the key was. He said she was taking Xanax and a sleeping pill at the time of her disappearance.

James said he and Victoria were communicating prior to her disappearance, but he reflected on her mental health issues. “You have to know her. I can’t explain it. I can’t explain it. The girls know. They could try to explain it. You know that time she tore the house apart in Ashwaubenon?”

James and the daughters described Victoria as being a clean freak and having OCD. One of the daughters said Victoria was beaten as a child if she did not clean.

James said it was Victoria that didn’t want to go to a doctor. Victoria’s psychiatrist testified Monday that Victoria told him James controlled her and wouldn’t let her go to a doctor.

James tells Warwick that he called Victoria on the date of her disappearance regarding bringing chicken home for dinner. Investigators say Victoria received no calls.

Prokopovitz tells Warwick that he took Victoria to a psychiatrist appointment on the date of her disappearance. James says Victoria was “not happy” with the psychiatrist.

Warwick asks James about an argument regarding a tablecloth on their way home from the psychiatrist. Victoria wanted to stop at Target to get a tablecloth, but James said he didn’t have time as he needed to go to work to fill out a time card. James denies to Warwick that they had this argument. However, he told police about it in 2013. Victoria’s son, Wesley Edges, testified that they argued about it at dinner before Victoria disappeared.

“I don’t remember saying anything about a tablecloth. Maybe I did, but...”

PI Warwick says he noticed a “red flag” when talking to James, because he would make denials in threes: “No, nope, no.”

After dinner, James said he went to bed while Victoria stayed up. “Right after I went to bed, I know she was still here,” says James. That would have been around 9 p.m.

He says he woke up around 3:30 a.m. and “hollered” for Victoria, but she was not in the home.

James says it’s not unusual for Victoria to be outside at that time. “She’s a night person. She’d be outside at 4 o’clock in the morning in the flowers,” James says.

James says he drove around looking for Victoria. He said she sometimes went on walks.

He says that he called her cell phone but there was no answer. He claimed he made multiple calls to Victoria, but records show he placed one call to her. Records show he placed several calls to co-workers at McKeefrys.

Warwick asked James what he thought happened to Victoria. “I don’t know,” James replied. James said Victoria had made suicidal comments in the past. Seven years ago Victoria said, “Next time I do it, nobody’s going to find me.”

“I know how she tried to do it [suicide] a couple of times, and... and... and, I don’t know,” James says.

Warwick asks James if Victoria had enough pills to overdose. James said she did not.

Warwick asks James if it is possible Victoria just left to get away. “It’s possible that she just got tired of everything. The thing of it is she left everything that meant a lot to her.”

Victoria left her purse and money behind.

Warwick asks James, “Do you think she hurt herself?”

James says, “I hate to say it, but I think that’s her intention when she left.”

James says he doesn’t know what time Victoria left the home.

“I lot of things she did was unusual, out of the norm for other people. But it was her way of life and I accepted it,” James says.

Warwick asks to speak alone with James. The private investigator asks James about his relationship with his new girlfriend, Kathy Friday.

“It’s alright, I’ve got nothing to hide,” James says. James says Victoria did not know about Kathy. He says he was not involved with Kathy while he was married to Victoria, but he was in contact with Kathy. He says he contacted Kathy after Victoria disappeared. They met for coffee and started dating.

(Kathy Friday was charged with perjury in the investigation. She died by suicide and charges were dismissed.)

“I’d call her once every two years, three years,” said James on the recording. “The cops went out and talked to her. I know they did, and I told them about her.”

Warwick asks James a hypothetical: “If she killed herself, where around here do you think she would have went?”

“I can’t imagine,” James says. James says Victoria was not familiar with places to go in the area, while he was very familiar with the surrounding area.

While testifying, Wendy Lemkuil, the deputy district attorney, asked Warwick about James and disclosing information.

“Were you aware at that time that he had previously not been disclosing he had any contact for 30 years?” asked Lemkuil.

“No, I wasn’t aware of that,” said Warwick.

“He’s now telling you and admitting to you he’s had regular contact with her through the years?” asked Lemkuil.

“That’s correct,” said Warwick.

Lemkuil was intense when asking other questions about Friday, and referenced a secret John Doe hearing held in 2019 that led to Prokopovitz’s perjury charges.

“Is it important if you would learn that somebody would say one thing and then admittedly lie later?” asked Lemkuil.

“Very important,” said Warwick.

“Particularly if somebody’s under oath and told you have to tell the truth, but then later confessed to lying? Would that be significant?” asked Lemkuil.

“Yes,” said Warwick.

Prosecutors pointed out other inconsistencies that refute previous testimony. In that same interview, James said he called Victoria on his way home the night she disappeared, saying he’d buy chicken for dinner, but several officers have testified there’s no evidence of such a call.

He also tells Warwick during the interview he doesn’t remember an argument the night Victoria vanished.

Her son, Wesley, testified extensively about that argument last week.

In the audio recording, Warwick asked “do you remember having an argument with her on the way home?” James could be heard saying “no. No. No.”

Warwick then asked other questions during the interview with James:

“Remember having a discussion with her in the truck on the way home about a table cloth?”

“No,” said James during the interview.

“Cause your first statement to police was that she wanted to stop and buy a tablecloth and you said you couldn’t, that you had to go up and get your timesheet, that was your statement to police. Remember anything about the tablecloth that day?” asked Warwick during the interview.

“No I don’t remember anything about a tablecloth,” said James.

The defense begins cross examination.

The defense raises the possibility that Victoria was hoarding pills or had access to her pills for an overdose.

“So it’s not inconceivable that this woman could have not taken her pills and stored them away for a later date?” asked D’Angelo.

“That’s not inconceivable, no,” said Warwick.

The defense asks about a burn barrel on the property. Warwick says he never searched the barrel, but read police records that indicate some items had been burned. He was not aware of evidence relating to Victoria’s disappearance.

Victoria’s mobility is again subject of conversation. Warwick says no one denied Victoria was able to walk around without issue. Sometimes she used a cane. The prosecution has claimed that Victoria could not possibly walk away from the home due to her physical health.

The defense says it would be possible that Victoria walked down the road and someone could have picked her up. Warwick says that’s a possibility.

“So let’s say within the six months of Victoria prior to her going missing. So going back six months, during your review of the reports or in the investigation, did you see any evidence of any phone contact or actual contact between Jim Prokopovitz and Kathy Friday?” asked D’Angelo.

“No,” said Warwick.

Kelly Walters is next to take the stand. She’s a friend of Victoria’s son, Wesley Edges. She provides an alibi for Wesley on the night of Victoria’s disappearance.

Ret. Det. Sgt. Monica Janke takes the stand. She took part in the execution of a search warrant at the Prokopovitz home. This was in 2015.

Janke testifies that luminol picked up three areas of blood in the home during the 2015 search. Luminol is a chemical that turns blue when it reacts to blood.

The defense brings up Victoria’s history of bloody noses and the fact that she had been treated for colon cancer and had a colostomy bag.

The defense asks if Janke’s investigation ruled out the possibility that Victoria died by suicide. Janke says that was not ruled out.

Next on the stand is Sarah Youngs, a friend of Victoria Prokopovitz. They once worked together at Super Ron’s in Pulaski in the mid-2000s.

Youngs testifies that Victoria complained that James “drank a lot.” She says Victoria said he went to the bar a lot.

Youngs says she had no reason to believe James was physically abusive to Victoria.

Forensic analyst Tyler Behling testifies about the calls made by James on the date of April 25, 2013. Records show James called Victoria’s phone at 4:50 p.m. that day. There are no calls on the record between James and Victoria until 4:13 a.m. on April 26. James called Victoria’s phone at that time. There was no answer.

After Behling, Kathy Friday’s daughter, Jennifer, took the stand. Jennifer was questioned about phone calls from her mother to James in the months following Victoria’s disappearance. She also answered questions about Kathy’s relationship with James.

“It was just so bizarre,” said Jennifer. “She said there are quarries around the area, lots of vegetation, hopefully a hunter will find her. The way she said it, I was so taken aback by her coldness.”

Jennifer’s examination ended with emotion. The jury left for a quick break before cross examination began.

During cross examination, Jennifer testified about her mother’s financial history, as well as her relationship with Kathy, and James’ relationship with Kathy.

After Jennifer’s testimony was finished, James’ ex-wife, Darlene Ingalls, took the stand. She testified James was abusive to her and threatened her life.

“I don’t know how it started but it ended up with my daughter and I put in the bathroom with a shotgun against her head as she stood in front of me,” said Ingalls. She added James drank daily, and testified she eventually left him with just the clothes on her back, despite him threatening her.

“Yes, he said you’d never get out the door,” said Ingalls.

“What did he say?”

“You’d never get out the door,” reiterated Ingalls.

“Did he ever tell you you’d never get out of there alive?”

“Yes,” said Ingalls.

During cross examination, Prokopovitz’s attorney questioned Ingalls on why she didn’t tell anyone why they stayed together after the gun incident.

She wraps up her testimony saying she received a call out of the blue from Victoria in the late 80′s or early 90′s.

“She said basically, ‘how did you live with this?’ and I said, ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about.’ And she said ‘How did you live with him as long as you did’,” said Ingalls.

The final person to take the stand Tuesday was Laura Johnson, James’ sister. She appeared to be crying as she finished her testimony, the second person to be in tears on the stand Tuesday.

More testimony is scheduled for Wednesday morning from prosecution witnesses.

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