HUDSON—David T. Agan, Jr., has been found guilty of first degree murder and an assortment of sex crimes.
He intentionally stabbed to death his estranged wife, Christina M. Agan, 37, of Kinderhook in the vestibule of the Valatie Medical Arts Building, 1301 River Street in the village, December 10, 2015 shortly before 2 p.m.
He stabbed her at least 35 times with a flat head screwdriver about the head, neck, body and extremities, according to testimony from the pathologist who performed the autopsy. She bled to death.
At the close of a grueling three-week trial in Columbia County Court Friday, January 26 at 1:35 p.m., a jury of seven men and five women found Mr. Agan, 44, guilty on all charges in a 136 count indictment.
In addition to the first degree murder charge, a class A-1 felony, he was also tried on 15 counts of third degree rape, 92 counts of third degree incest and 28 counts of third degree criminal sex act, all class E felonies. Four counts of the original 96 incest charges were withdrawn when it was determined that Mr. Agan was hospitalized when the acts were alleged to have occurred.
The jury deliberated for about six hours.
The guilty verdict of murder one, means the jury found that Mr. Agan intended to kill his wife because she witnessed a crime he committed previously and he wanted to prevent her from testifying against him. The crime was the incestuous relationship he was having with his daughter.
He was also convicted of multiple counts of third degree rape, third degree criminal sexual act and third degree incest–all in connection with that illegal sexual relationship with his teenage daughter.
When the jury foreman responded “guilty” to Judge Richard Koweek’s query as to the panel’s finding on the first degree murder charge, gasps and then sobbing could be heard from friends and family of Ms. Agan’s who were present in the courtroom to hear the verdict. The group, which included Ms. Agan’s mother, wore articles of purple clothing each day in court to show their solidarity and promote domestic violence awareness.
The judge repeated the verdict inquiry procedure, reciting every charge in the indictment and asking the foreman for the jury’s finding. Every response from the foreman was “guilty.” The process took several minutes.
Mr. Agan had no audible reaction.
His attorney on the murder charge, Dennis Schlenker, interrupted the verdict announcement to ask the judge to question the foreman about whether the panel had considered the extreme emotional disturbance defense he had mounted on his client’s behalf.
The foreman answered, “Did we consider it? Yes.”
But it did not change their final determination.
In court Thursday, January 25, attorneys delivered summations starting in the morning.
Mr. Schlenker said he had satisfied the extreme emotional disturbance (EED) defense burden of proof in his presentation of this “affirmative defense” by a preponderance of the evidence.
He said the “heart of the case” did not occur December 10, 2015, but “began in 1973 when David Agan was born.”
The attorney recounted the suffering his client had endured as a child, which included beatings, “drowning” games, foster homes, juvenile detention facilities, suicide attempts and mental illness. He referred to Dr. Stuart Kirschner’s characterization of Mr. Agan as “a simmering caldron of rage, anger and hostility, always one degree away from boiling over.” Dr. Kirschner, a forensic psychologist, presented expert testimony during the trial.
Had the EED defense succeeded, it would not have allowed Mr. Agan “to escape responsibility” for the crime, but would have served to reduce the level of the crime from first degree murder to second degree murder or from second degree murder to manslaughter, the attorney said.
In his summation, attorney Ian Crimmins of the Public Defender’s Office, who represented Mr. Agan on the sex crimes, said the prosecution presented “no credible argument” that the sex crimes between Mr. Agan and his daughter ever happened—but instead were fantasy. Mr. Crimmins said the daughter’s testimony was not believable in terms of the sex acts themselves nor the frequency of the acts (five times a week from December 2013 to December 2015.) He said the daughter changed her story so she would not be seen as a voluntary participant but instead as a victim when she found out she could be considered an accomplice.
Columbia County District Attorney Paul Czajka, who prosecuted the case with the assistance of Assistant District Attorney Ryan Carty, told the jury during his summation that the names and types of mental illness suffered by Mr. Agan do not matter. “The People concede he has a mental illness.” He also said it doesn’t matter how many times Mr. Agan and his daughter engaged in what kind of sexual conduct, “the People have to prove one kind of act each.”
The DA recounted Mr. Agan’s activities on the day of the murder, his purchases at Ocean State Job Lot, which included an orange and black rope with which he said he planned to hang himself, and at Cumberland Farms for a bottle of Mountain Dew and a carton of cigarettes. The DA asked the jury to consider that if Mr. Agan was really planning to kill himself that day was he going to smoke a carton of cigarettes before he did it?
The DA noted how far away Mr. Agan parked from the Valatie Medical Arts Building, next to the creek. How he walked calmly from the building after the murder to his Jeep and threw the screwdriver toward the creek, where it was later found sticking in the ground among the leaves by a State Police dog. Mr. Agan then drove to Walmart in East Greenbush, where purchased sweatpants and bandages.
The fact that “he’s trying to get away is inconsistent with EED,” the DA said.
Judge Koweek read instructions to the jury beginning at 3:20 p.m. Thursday, defining the elements of law that applied to each charge. Jurors began deliberations about an hour later and stayed until after 6 p.m. that evening. They were back again the following morning, Friday, January 26 at 9 a.m. and delivered their verdict shortly after 1:30 p.m.
The judge told Mr. Agan he now faces life incarceration when sentenced Monday, April 2 at 10 a.m. He was handcuffed and taken away by correction officers.
Asked to comment after the trial, DA Czajka said, “The people of Columbia county are very fortunate to have such competent and dedicated people as the Child Advocacy Center, New York State Police, and ADAs Carty and [James] Carlucci working for them. Of critical importance, this verdict—a first, as far as I know—would not have occurred without the testimony of the courageous survivor and eyewitnesses.”
Mr. Czajka said no one has been found guilty of first degree murder in Columbia County in last 40 years; all other convictions were for second degree.
While both first and second degree murder involve intentional killing, first degree murder includes the intentional killing for the purpose of eliminating a witness to crime.
Neither Mr. Schlenker nor Mr. Crimmins responded to requests for comment.
To contact Diane Valden email