By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer
Airman Edward Novak II told emergency responders he found his wife dead in an upstairs bathroom with her head inside the toilet, according to testimony Tuesday from an agent with Cannon Air Force Base’ Office of Special Investigations.
Special Agent Kelly Siler also said Novak told emergency responders the toilet seat, lid and a TV were on top of her head and neck.
The testimony in Tuesday’s military hearing to determine whether Novak will be charged in connection with his wife’s death marked the first time evidence in the case has been discussed publicly since Kimberly Novak was found dead in the couple’s base home on Oct. 28, 2004.
Edward Novak II was charged March 21 with premeditated murder and child endangerment, according to base officials. He could face the death penalty if convicted of murder.
Military officials did not reveal Kimberly Novak died of blunt force trauma to the head and neck until charges were filed against Novak II.
According to Siler’s testimony, Edward Novak told investigators he and Kimberly Novak, 20, had put their daughter to bed and then wrestled playfully inside and outside their home. His wife sprayed him with the hose and he went inside to change and then left to return a car they had borrowed from a friend. Novak said his wife had gone upstairs to take a bath as he was leaving.
He told investigators he was gone 30 to 40 minutes, according to Siler.
He told investigators when he returned he put some caramel in the microwave and headed upstairs, Siler said. As he neared the top of the steps, Novak told investigators he discovered his wife slumped over the toilet in the bathroom, Siler said. When he removed her head from the toilet and could not find a pulse, he called 911 and waited, Siler said.
Lt. Colonel John W. Davis, the Air Force investigator in charge of the hearing, was critical of the way the case was handled.
Among the questions he asked Siler were:
• Why Edward Novak was not advised of his rights during initial interviews;
• Why those interviews were not recorded or filmed;
• Why he did not take any notes during the interviews he was conducting;
• and why Novak was not asked to sign a consent to waive counsel after he first asked for an attorney and then, according to Siler, later consented to speak to investigators.
Davis also questioned the fact Novak was released the night of his wife’s death even though he had a visible wound on his face that might have been relevant to the homicide. Siler testified it was discovered days later Novak had several scratches on his neck and elbow in addition to a bite mark on his forearm he told investigators was self inflicted.
Siler testified the Novak residence was processed as a crime scene the night of Kimberly Novak’s death. Photos and video footage were taken, fingerprints and shoe imprints were taken into evidence, and linear shaped items were collected as possible murder weapons, he said.
There has been no forensic or DNA evidence returned linking Novak to a weapon that might have caused the death.
When asked by Davis why Novak was not treated like a suspect as part of a crime scene, Siler said Novak was not looked at as a suspect until the outcome of the autopsy was determined.
Davis responded: “So if he had any defensive wounds, if the autopsy took long enough, those wounds would simply heal and disappear?”
Testimony is expected to conclude today.
Testimony highlights in Tuesday’s hearing:
• David Boiko, a civilian employed with the Department of the Air Force as a casualty assistance representative, testified to informing Novak of life insurance totaled at $350,000 and other benefits for which he was eligible upon his wife’s death. Novak never initiated filing the necessary paperwork for a life insurance claim, Boiko said. He testified he contacted Novak and only completed the application in June 2005 at Boiko’s request.
• Senior Airman Brandi Stupak, a next-door neighbor and acquaintance of the Novaks, testified she saw a Special Forces police cruiser circle their street the day before Novak’s death. Kim Novak, she testified, came outside in her bathrobe and bare feet, had a conversation with the driver, and stormed back into the house looking angry. She described the situation as unusual.
• Tech Sgt. Kevin Cotton, a crew chief with the Cannon Fire Department, was one of the first to arrive at the scene of the homicide. Edward Novak was sitting Indian style on the stair landing near the bathroom, crying hysterically and rubbing his face and head with his hands, Cotton said.
Attempts to resuscitate Kim Novak were made, Cotton said, but she did not respond to CPR and heart sensors did not detect any life signs. She was pronounced dead at the scene. Cotton said the blue color of her lips led him to believe she had been dead approximately 15 minutes.
Cotton described the bathroom where she was found in disarray. There were rose petals floating in a tub of water, he said.
• Senior Airman Paul Shelvik, an acquaintance and owner of the car the Novaks frequently borrowed, described Kimberly Novak as friendly and outgoing. Edward Novak, he said, was quiet and passive but highly intelligent.
Shelvik said he did not hear Novak return his car that night. He had wisdom teeth removed earlier in the day and had taken pain medication, making him sleep deeply, he said.
— Compiled by CNJ staff writer Sharna Johnson