CNJ staff photo: Sharna Johnson The view from the witness stand in the Cannon courtroom where Airman Basic Edward Novak is standing trial. Photography is not allowed in the courtroom while court is in session.
By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer
CANNON AIR FORCE BASE — Kimberly Novak’s parents testified Saturday about learning their daughter was dead and the interactions that followed with a son-in-law they barely knew.
Edward Novak, a Cannon airman, is charged with first-degree murder in the death of his 20-year-old wife.
Patricia Bollman said Edward Novak called her and told her that her daughter was dead, explaining he didn’t want to give the details over the phone, preferring to tell them face-to-face.
“I hung up the phone and all I just said was ‘My daughter’s dead,’” she said. “Then I just lost it.
Collecting their other daughter and her boyfriend, the Bollman family traveled to Cannon, arriving Oct. 30, 2004, two days after the death.
Donald Bollman told prosecutor Lt. Col. Dan Higgins when they met with their son-in-law, he asked Novak questions.
“I asked him if there was any way this was an accident,” Donald Bollman said, “and he shook his head no.”
“(Then I said) ‘So you’re saying this could be a murder,’ and he didn’t say anything, he just kind of shrugged his shoulders.”
The Bollmans said including their daughter’s wedding in September 2003, they had only spent time with Edward Novak three times before their daughter’s death.
Through cross-examination, Donald Bollman was characterized by the defense as a man unhappy about his oldest daughter’s sudden marriage plans who quickly cast suspicion on his son-in-law.
Maj. Jeff Palomino confronted Donald Bollman with statements he made to the media.
“This happened in 2004, now Ed Novak is finally seeing trial. … Now we need to see him found guilty. … You do want Ed Novak found guilty. Those are your statements?” Palomino asked.
“Yes,” Donald Bollman replied.
“Ed was Kim’s first boyfriend, and the first you met,” Palomino said. “Ed called you and asked to marry your daughter and you asked, ‘Why now, what’s the hurry?’ Is it fair to say you were not 100 percent supportive?”
“Yes,” Bollman said.
The Bollmans described Novak’s demeanor during the memorial service and funeral as emotionless, quiet and reserved, though Donald Bollman said he was seen laughing and cutting up with his brother several times.
Under cross-examination by Palomino, the Bollmans were asked why their testimony differed from written statements they gave investigators and from conversations they had with defense attorneys during pre-trial interviews.
“I wasn’t aware how important this statement was. I knew it was important, but I didn’t know I needed to include everything,” Donald Bollman said in response to Palomino’s questions.
Kimberly Novak died Oct. 28, 2004 of blunt force trauma to the head and neck. If convicted, Novak faces life in prison.
The government called five witnesses during the partial day of court.
Testimony will resume Monday.
Master Sergeant Edward Story testified he was appointed to serve as a family liaison officer when Kimberly Novak died, assisting Edward Novak and the family as a “go-between” for Air Force and base resources. He was also Novak’s section chief at Cannon.
During a conversation with Edward Novak and his brother Jason Novak after Kimberly Novak’s death, Story testified Jason Novak asked him if the life insurance would be paid if the death were a suicide.
He said Edward Novak told him, “I’ll tell you like I told my brother how I found my wife,” and then explained he found his wife with her head in the toilet, a television on top of the seat and a the television cord wrapped around her neck. Novak told him he moved her body to the hallway.
When asked why he didn’t tell investigators about the conversation for more than eight months, Story said though investigators had interviewed him, and he assumed they already had the information.
Story also testified Novak did not show any emotion in the days following his wife’s death but under cross examination added he had never known him to show emotion prior to the death, either.
David Boiko was working as a casualty assistance representative at Cannon when Kimberly Novak died and was assigned to help Novak understand and obtain military benefits resulting from his wife’s death.
Kimberly Novak had $350,000 in life insurance coverage, he said. Boiko testified after an intial meeting with Novak to explain the benefits, Novak only contacted him one time for assistance with a request to be relocated for humanitarian reasons. Boiko said he initiated all contact with Novak to ensure paperwork was completed in a timely manner.
To date, Novak has not received any life insurance benefits from his wife’s death because of the ongoing criminal case, he said.
Christy Gross gave testimony she knew the Novaks but was closer with Kimberly than with Edward Novak. She testified she and Kimberly Novak would get together several times a week. Gross said she kept the couple’s young daughter at her home for a few days after Kimberly Novak died.
Crying and sobbing throughout her testimony for the prosecution, Gross said Novak told her he found his wife around 3 a.m. after taking “the long way home” from returning a borrowed car. She said he told her he didn’t want to go to the memorial service and displayed no emotion over his wife’s death.
Her testimony was challenged under cross-examination when defense counsel Capt. Sterling Pendleton presented her with a written statement she provided investigators and asked why she didn’t tell investigators those details in three separate interviews she had with them. “It wasn’t until after a (recent) meeting with the prosecution that you remembered?” he asked. “Yes,” she replied.
Outside the presence of the jury, Pendleton told the judge “This is a witness that in all truth may be exaggerating how close she was to either of these two people.”
Patricia Bollman, Kimberly Novak’s mother, testified she maintained contact with Edward Novak after her daughter’s death, talking to him by phone at least once a week.
“I was concerned about him. He had just lost his wife, and he had a little girl to take care of,” she said.
In March 2005, Bollman said she agreed to engage Novak in a phone call while OSI agents listened and recorded the conversation in an effort to get incriminating evidence. Agents prompted her to ask him if he hurt Kimberly Novak, press him about an alleged bite mark he had on his arm after Kimberly Novak’s death and to get him to retrace the order of events surrounding the death.
What, if any, evidence the phone call produced was not discussed during Bollman’s testimony.
Bollman said she agreed to help because over time she had begun to have suspicions.
“Mrs. Bollman, do you want to see Ed Novak convicted here?” Maj. Jeff Palomino asked. “If he’s the one that did this … Yes,” she responded.