Arts Desk

Cara Cottle Trial: Details Emerge about Death of Dirk Smiler as Cottle Is Granted Bond

033010caraleecottleThe chief judge of the Fairfax Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court ruled today that Cara Cottle, the woman charged with the second-degree murder of her boyfriend Dirk Smiler, could be released on $50,000 bond following a several-hour-long preliminary hearing in which the case was sent to a Fairfax County grand jury. A date for the trial should be set tomorrow. Cottle was denied bond twice after turning herself in after Fairfax police issued an arrest warrant in March.

Cottle could be released as soon as today, Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Mark J. Sullivan said after the hearing. “With the connections she has,” Sullivan said, he didn’t think meeting the bond be a problem for her, an apparent reference to Richard A. Viguerie, the conservative direct-mail pioneer. He said he was still deciding whether to appeal the bond motion. Until Feb. 15, the day Dirk Smiler, a prominent figure in D.C.'s goth scene, died, Cottle had worked Viguerie's American Target Advertising in Manassas, Va., where Cottle's mother, Viola Shields, is a vice president of administration.

The prominent defense attorney Peter D. Greenspun argued that because Cottle did not attempt to flee in the six weeks between Smiler's death and her arrest, because of her good standing in the community, and because she has been attending a day treatment program and is undergoing a mental health assessment that has shown that she is not dangerous, she should not be considered a flight risk. Judge Kimberly J. Daniel agreed.

Judge Daniel also seemed to be nearly swayed by Greenspun's argument during the preliminary hearing that the prosecution had not shown probable cause—she characterized her decision as a "close call," but ultimately sent the case to a Fairfax County grand jury.

The hearing, for the most part, revealed few new details in the case. According to testimony by Bryan Bruner, one of Cottle and Smiler's roommates, on the night that Smiler died Cottle emerged from their bedroom 10 or 15 seconds after roommates heard a noise. Bruner said she was naked and covered in blood and said, "Help me, help me! I shot him!" He said that earlier that evening, he very briefly heard unintelligible "raised voices"—Cottle's, he said—coming from the basement bedroom. Bruner and four other roommates lived on the first floor of their home on Little River Turnpike in Annandale.

An officer who responded to the scene that night and Det. Robert Bond, the lead homicide investigator on the case, also testified. Bond said that the weapon was an 8 millimeter Mauser rifle. Greenspun said that the investigation had shown gunpowder soot and burn marks on Smiler's hands and face, which Bond said were indicative of a close-range gunshot, but could not have come from the weapon's trigger area, as WaPo's Tom Jackman reported earlier this evening.

Responding to Greenspun's questions, Bond said he observed bruises on Cottle's neck the day after Smiler's death that could have been consistent with strangling. “There are a lot of reasons for that, too,” Judge Daniel then pointed out to Greenspun. Bond said that he could not be sure if Smiler's death had been accidental or a result of self-defense or a murder. But he said, "There is no indication that he committed suicide. There were other statements contradicting that.” According to Bond, a toxicology report showed that Smiler had a blood alcohol level of .09 at the time of his death. The ballistics test is still pending.

Two more of Smiler and Cottle's roommates, Chablis Owens and Stephen Balázs, were present but were not called to testify. Both Smiler's and Cottle's mothers were present, as were Skot Braunfeld, Smiler's best friend, and Cougar Akl, Smiler's ex-girlfriend and the mother of his younger daughter.

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  • Tobias Beatty

    Of course I don't know for sure, but there is a chance that they might have indulged in some sexual contact that might explain the bruises on her neck? Just a thought that's been nagging at me every time I see something written about those bruises.

  • spoongrrl

    I've watched a female hit herself in the face, while screaming at her boyfriend that she was going to call the cops and say he hit her. i would not put it past anyone to choke themself if they thoght it would keep them out of prison

  • Danny Davidson

    Dirk was one of my closest friends and I know for a fact that they both enjoyed Erotic asphyxiation, which is the intentional restriction of oxygen to the brain for sexual arousal. It is also called asphyxiophilia, autoerotic asphyxia, hypoxyphilia, or breath control play.
    Dirk and I discussed this at length several times...that would explain the marks on her neck after sex... I wish I could testify to this somehow!

  • Stupid

    What a bunch of knuckleheads. Sounds like everyone got what they deserved.

  • F.

    I was thinking the same thing about the finger marks on her neck.

    The thing that really bothers me is how in the world could she load and fire a BOLT ACTION WWII long-rifle WHILE he was strangling her?

  • john doe

    She is now eeked her way into my circle of friends... she's a drugie, and an alcoholic. And a slut. She was seein one of my friends then moved in on another and slept w him. Now they are keeping that from him. Anyways I refuse to hang with any of them.

    She is on the streets going where we go eating where we drink. Between that, and getting high on illegal drugs, Somthing needs to be done to keep these killers behind bars till the jury decides. I as a parent, and a taxpayer am disgusted.... how could a so called marine sargeant not be able to diffuse the situation.... grab gun and run!

  • MicLitter

    NOTHING Dirk Smiler did justifies this whore blowing his brains out. She should be locked up, custody of her kids should be given to someone stable, sane and benevolent, and she should never be allowed to see them again. Military rank and monetary status should NEVER function as a get-out-of-jail-free card! Neither should PHONY CLAIMS OF PHYSICAL ABUSE.