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Differing Views Of Zimmerman Divorce Emerge As Murder Trial Begins

Kirk watches
David Proeber
The Pantagraph (pool)
Kirk Zimmerman watches opening statements Monday, April 8, 2019, in his murder trial. He's accused of killing his ex-wife, Pamela, in 2014.

Prosecutors opened their case Monday against Kirk Zimmerman by telling jurors he was motivated by greed and hate for his ex-wife, Pamela, before fatally shooting her almost five years ago. His defense argued they were “happily divorced” and that stories of Zimmerman’s financial problems were overblown.

Zimmerman’s long-awaited murder trial began Monday morning with opening statements from prosecutor Brad Rigdon and defense attorney John Rogers.

Rigdon said it was a “well-planned murder” that was solved only because Zimmerman made a series of mistakes while trying to cover his tracks. Zimmerman was motivated by the financial dispute with his ex-wife over child support, Rigdon said. The “triggering event,” he said, was a letter Pamela sent Kirk on Oct. 24, 2014, notifying him she planned to take him back to court over child support payments.

Zimmerman did it “because he hated her and because he knew as long as she was alive, he was going to go broke. He took her life so he would not have to pay her any more money,” Rigdon said. 

Brad Rigdon tells jurors
Credit David Proeber / The Pantagraph (pool)
The Pantagraph (pool)
Prosecutor Brad Rigdon tells jurors how many times Pamela Zimmerman was shot inside her Bloomington office.

Rogers denied Zimmerman ever saw such a letter and said a $3,900 child support dispute was not enough to kill over; he said Zimmerman was making over $100,000 at his job at State Farm. 

“It’s ridiculous to think that anyone would go to that horrific extreme over that minuscule amount of money,” Rogers said. “This relationship was one of indifference.”

In his opening statement, Rigdon provided jurors with a high-level view of the evidence the state planned to present over a trial expected to last four to six weeks. He said Zimmerman underestimated the forensic and investigative abilities of law enforcement, which took eight months to arrest him. Police found gunshot residue on the gear shift in Zimmerman’s car, Rigdon said. And Kirk Zimmerman’s car was spotted via surveillance cameras driving in and around the parking lot of Pamela’s office on East Washington Street, near State Farm’s corporate headquarters. 

“He didn’t realize how many cameras State Farm has on the outside of its building,” Rigdon said.

Zimmerman also botched his plans for an alibi on Nov. 3, 2014, when his then-girlfriend showed up 15 minutes early to his home and couldn’t get him to answer the door, Rigdon said. Prosecutors say he was still out discarding evidence from the crime; Rogers said he was sleeping on his couch.

In his opening statement, Rogers suggested two other men in Pamela Zimmerman’s life made suspicious moves surrounding her death. Those men were Zimmerman’s new fiancé and the last client who she saw at her financial planning and CPA firm on the day of her death. Rogers called that client “a gun fanatic” who was there when a witness reported hearing gunshots.

Defense attorney John Rogers
Credit David Proeber / The Pantagraph (pool)
The Pantagraph (pool)
Defense attorney John Rogers shows jurors a map of the office complex where Pamela Zimmerman was killed. "If you’re planning to do it here, you’re planning to do it in Grand Central Station," he said, noting how many potential witnesses were around.

Rigdon said both of those men were excluded from the list of suspects and had alibis or other exculpatory evidence.

On the day of the murder, Zimmerman asked for the afternoon off from work to get some yardwork done on an unusually warm November day, Rogers said. A neighbor spotted him mowing his lawn around 4:30 p.m., at the time when police say he was already driving near his ex-wife’s business, Rogers said. 

“If you’re trying to create an alibi for yourself, are you by yourself at your house?” Rogers said. 

Rogers said Bloomington Police zeroed in on Kirk Zimmerman as a suspect from the get-go. He also tried to proactively attack a prosecution claim that Zimmerman traveled to Indiana to more easily buy a gun. That’s based in part on computer records showing Zimmerman looked at how to get to Indiana just days before the murder, Rigdon said.

Rogers said the gun was never found and there’s no evidence Zimmerman ever bought one. 

“You could take $400 in cash and go to any bar in west Bloomington and get a gun,” Rogers said. “You don’t have to go through all this.” 

Seated with his defense team, Zimmerman remained motionless for much of the opening statements Monday. He smirked when Rigdon told jurors about an interview in which police—looking to test for gunshot residue—asked Zimmerman if he’d washed his hands after the shooting.

Prosecutors were set to begin their case Monday afternoon with the first of 60+ witnesses. 

Earlier Monday, Judge Scott Drazewski granted a defense request to exclude 14 witnesses from extended media coverage of the trial. Their testimony can’t be recorded with photos, audio, or video, but their names and comments can be reported by the media, the judge said. 

Zimmerman has been free on bond but under home confinement ahead of the trial.

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Ryan Denham is the digital content director for WGLT.
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