Deplorable conditions, discovery of body detailed in day one of murder trial

by Toni Hopper

Four state’s witnesses testified Tuesday in the murder trial of Karen Jean Pritchard, 52, of Marlow. Pritchard is charged with second degree murder in the February 2021 death of Ashley Nicole Anderson, 31, also of Marlow, and 138 counts of animal cruelty.

Quinton Fullerton, Undersheriff Rick Lang, District Attorney Violent Crimes Investigator Justin Scott, and Stephens County Sheriff’s Deputy Garrett Hunt were called to testify. Fullerton’s testimony centered around the conversation he had with Pritchard and when he learned about Anderson’s death. Until now, Fullerton had not been named as the person who reported the alleged crime. Fullerton testified that he initially went to the courthouse and spoke with Lt. Allen Street, then courthouse head of security.

Fullerton said he also spoke with Undersheriff Rick Lang that same morning. Fullerton said he had known Pritchard for 20 to 30 years. Only days prior, Pritchard requested Fullerton to the house to hook up a propane tank to a heater inside, he said. His wife, Robbie, accompanied him to the home.

A day after, Pritchard approached him at Marlow Hop & Sack, while he was fueling his truck. She drove up and told him, “I need to talk to you.” She seemed nervous and he asked “Are you jammed up?” he told the court, "she said yes.” He heads home and the next day he goes back to her place. He noticed an individual, K.P. Balthrop, and a hired hand hauling out baled hay. He said Pritchard told him to get in her truck and turn off his cellphone. He didn’t know why, and noted that she also turned off her phone.

“Ashley’s in my house dead,” he said, relating what Pritchard had said. “I asked her how long, she said three days.” Fullerton said Pritchard had told him that she had fired Anderson, and went to drive off and backed up into a golf cart. Later when she returned to that area, she discovered Anderson lying on the ground, he recounted. Fullerton said Pritchard admitted to taking Anderson’s body into her house.

“I told her, girl’s gotta be found. You gotta call the law and the law needs to be called. She said they’ll hang a murder charge on me. I can’t, I can’t. I said, if it’s an accident they won’t,” Fullerton testified. “She said, nobody will be looking for her. I said, always, somebody will always be looking.” His testimony was detailed. He said he didn’t want any part of “that” and he had very little sleep before deciding to go to the courthouse on Friday, Feb. 12, 2021.

Fullerton testified for over an hour and a half.

Lang was not on the stand as long. His testimony included his interaction with Pritchard and the conditions of the home and outbuildings. He said she allowed him to come into the house and look around. He noticed an odor of decomposition near the second bedroom down the hall, he said. When he entered one of the outbuildings where the dogs were kept, he quickly exited. He wasn’t prepared for the stench and the ammonia that burned his eyes. Investigator Scott was in the building and Lang said there wasn’t any reason for him to be in there at the same time, he said.

Scott and Hunt also were on the stand for a considerable time, with Hunt on the stand the longest. Deputy Hunt photographically documented the property. This included the entire outside landscape, the layout of the buildings and property, conditions of the buildings, vehicles, and gooseneck trailer, in which the dogs were housed or caged.

Hunt also went to Wal-mart in Duncan to collect surveillance security footage which showed that Anderson had been there on Feb. 8. She left with a full cart of groceries. It appeared someone in a Black Tahoe had picked her up at the door. Hunt testified it was Pritchard’s Tahoe.

Defense attorney Carl Buckholts painstakingly went through hundreds of photos that Hunt had taken of the crime scene, most of which were evidence of the dogs’ deplorable housing conditions. Two photos revealed the victim and the blue tarp in which she was discovered. Anderson's body was found in a Conex shipping container that had been locked. Anderson’s body was not hidden, because when deputies broke the lock and the doors opened, they discovered the blue tarp with Anderson’s body right at the front. It appeared the victim’s body had just been shoved into the container (Conex containers are the size of a small building).

Testimony and examination for Tuesday included the weather conditions and how quickly they were deteriorating during the search of the property and the need to get animals rescued. It was also noted that multiple volunteers and agencies came to assist in rescuing the dogs. Hunt said during questioning that volunteers never wandered the property or came near the container.

*Because of limited space, we didn't publish this story in our printed edition. We also were not able to attend Wednesday's trial.

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