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Trial opens for Pembroke’s Dale Collinge, who’s accused of murdering girlfriend

Dale Collinge of Pembroke sits at his motions hearing; Tuesday, Aril 16, 2013. Collinge has been charged with killing his girlfriend.

(SAMANTHA GORESH / Monitor staff)

Dale Collinge of Pembroke sits at his motions hearing; Tuesday, Aril 16, 2013. Collinge has been charged with killing his girlfriend. (SAMANTHA GORESH / Monitor staff)

Just moments after Karen Boelzner was shot dead, her boyfriend admitted to pulling the trigger and told a police officer what prosecutors are now trying to prove in the Pembroke man’s trial this week.

“I am a murderer,” Dale Collinge told the officer, according to a prosecutor who projected that sentence on the courtroom wall at the start of Collinge’s trial this morning.

Assistant Attorney General Jay McCormack told the jury at Merrimack County Superior Court that Collinge is now trying to take back that statement and avoid the consequences, a year and a half after he admitted killing Boelzner on Nov. 13, 2011.

“What happened to Karen Boelzer was not an accident,” McCormack said. “It was murder. As he said, ‘I am a murderer.’ His words. By his own repeated admissions, including what you’ll see and hear from him yourselves on the tape, it’s clear this was not an accident. He was angry at Karen and he wanted to teach her a lesson.”

The prosecutors believe Collinge was angry at Boelzner that day because she had first pointed the gun at him, pulling the trigger but not chambering a bullet first. According to a police affidavit in the case, Collinge told detectives he thought the gun was empty when he took it from Boelzner, turned it on her and pulled the trigger, wanting her to feel the same fear he had felt.

“He wanted to teach her a lesson and scare her. He didn’t yell at her. He didn’t kick her out of the house. He didn’t call the police,” McCormack said. “Instead he aimed a high-powered hunting rifle at her from feet away and intentionally pulled the trigger and put a bullet in her face.”

But Collinge’s lawyer told the jury today that his action was actually an instantaneous reaction to having Boelzner, a woman he knew to be depressed and at times unstable, point the gun at him.

“In the end, nothing could have prepared Dale, no gun safety class in the world, could have prepared him for that moment when he heard that click,” attorney Suzanne Ketteridge said. “This was a reaction. This was an accident.”

Collinge showed little emotion as his trial got under way this morning. As prosecutors showed a photo of Boelzner, he looked quickly at the projection on the wall, then dropped his eyes back to the table.

Before opening statements, the jury visited the Pembroke house where Collinge and Boelzner lived. Collinge stood outside, his hands tucked into his pockets or crossed in front of him, as the jurors walked through the living room where the police say he shot Boelzner and cradled her bleeding head in his hands.

Read tomorrow’s Monitor for more on this story.

(Tricia L. Nadolny can be reached at 369-3306 or tnadolny@cmonitor.com or on Twitter at @tricia_nadolny.)

Correction: This story has been updated to reflect the correct time prosecutors say Dale Collinge identified himself as a “murderer.”

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