Two Dogs Salvatore Fasaga, 43, of Onalaska, was found not guilty in Lewis County Superior Court of the May 2018 murder of Paul Snarski on Friday. He was found guilty of unlawful possession of a firearm.
Fasaga had been accused of fatally shooting Snarski, also known as “Hound,” with a .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol at Fasaga’s Onalaska residence late on May 11 or May 12, 2018, then dismembering Snarski’s body and having other people dispose of Snarski’s remains, vehicle and shoes, according to court documents.
Audible gasps filled the crowded courtroom when Judge J. Andrew Toynbee delivered his verdict in Lewis County Superior Court on Friday, after asking the gallery to “recognize the dignity of the courtroom” and remain civil despite how they personally feel about the ruling.
The verdict came after a 10-day bench trial and a subsequent week-long recess where Toynbee reviewed all the evidence in the case.
Explaining his verdict, Toynbee said he did not find the evidence produced by the state prosecutors proved, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Fasaga murdered Snarski. The case was handled by prosecutors from King County after a judge there approved a motion by Fasaga’s attorney to change venue earlier in June. The judge ruled that because the murder allegedly took place in Lewis County, Fasaga’s trial should be held in Lewis County, according to court documents.
“Beyond a reasonable doubt is the most stringent standard and most difficult to meet in a court of law,” Toynbee said Friday.
Toynbee said he had no credibility issues with the physical evidence submitted or most of the witness testimony, but said the testimony of Rachel Donnelly, the key witness in the case, was questionable.
“My reasonable doubt falls primarily on Ms. Donnelly’s testimony,” Toynbee said.
While Fasaga’s defense attorneys, Peter T. Connick and Peter T. Geisness, argued throughout the trial that Donnelly’s testimony is not credible due to her criminal background and evidence proving she lied to law enforcement repeatedly throughout the investigation, Toynbee said he was not considering Donnelly’s background and found he could understand why someone would lie to police during an investigation.
However, recalling Donnelly’s four-hour testimony during trial and the statements she submitted to law enforcement during the investigation, Toynbee said, “I believe that she lied during her testimony.”
He cited aspects of Donnelly’s testimony that contradicted her reportedly truthful statements to law enforcement as well as her body language while on the stand and tendency to “fill in holes” in her account of the incident.
Toynbee additionally pointed toward Donnelly’s reported behavior after the alleged murder, where she — despite being in a relationship with Snarski at the time of his death and allegedly watching him die just hours prior — laid down with Fasaga and entered a romantic relationship with him.
“I’m no stranger to victimology,” Toynbee said, adding that Donnelly’s reported behavior fell into the realm of “extreme” and “bizarre.”
The questionable credibility of Donnelly’s testimony could possibly have been overlooked had it been supported by another key witness, identified as DJ Lancaster, but the prosecution did not call Lancaster to testify or obtain his statement at any point during the investigation.
“The glaring absence of anything regarding Mr. Lancaster is part of what contributed to my finding of reasonable doubt,” Toynbee said.
Toynbee did find beyond a reasonable doubt that Fasaga unlawfully possessed a firearm at the time of the incident.
In Fasaga’s own testimony, Toynbee said, Fasaga admitted to keeping firearms on his Onalaska property despite knowing that his previous convictions prohibit him from owning, carrying or using firearms. Testimony from Donnelly and other witnesses also agreed there were firearms on Fasaga’s property around the time of the incident.
Fasaga will remain in custody on this case at least through his sentencing hearing on
the unlawful possession of a firearm charge, which had not been scheduled as of Friday afternoon.
Fasaga is also in custody at the Lewis County Jail on $1 million bail for an unrelated first-degree assault and drive-by shooting case stemming from a July 2018 incident.
Fasaga has entered not-guilty pleas to all charges in that case and trial confirmation is scheduled for Sept. 7, with trial scheduled to begin Sept. 11.