First-ever "psychological autopsy" in a criminal case in Kansas used to determine mindset of fatal shooting victim

Sergeant Brandon Hauptman of the Hays Police Department vividly remembers the dark, cold Halloween morning as he arrived at Kristen Trickle's home.

And he remembers the moment he found the 26-year-old near death in bed.

Sgt. Brandon Hauptman: I could see the firearm. … From what I could tell initially, a larger caliber revolver, and laying across her abdomen … about like this.

Erin Moriarty: How was she dressed?

Sgt. Brandon Hauptman: Uh, almost fully undressed. She was just wearing underwear.

Kristen Trickle Delynn Rice

After Kristen Trickle showed signs of life, the sergeant quickly moved the revolver away from her and carried her into the living room for CPR.

Sgt. Brandon Hauptman: The only injury that I could see at that point was the entrance wound.

Erin Moriarty: And where was that entrance wound?

Sgt. Brandon Hauptman: Underneath her, uh, chin here (pointing a finger under his chin).

There was nothing the first responders could do for Kristen.

Sgt. Brandon Hauptman: I went out to Colby on the porch … and told him that she had died.

COLBY TRICKLE (police bodycam audio): Hello.

SGT. HAUPTMAN: My name is Brandon Hauptman … I'm the sergeant working today.

Hauptman's body camera was only recording audio that day.

SGT. HAUPTMAN (police bodycam audio) She died, and I'm so sorry.

COLBY TRICKLE (crying): Are you sure? Are you sure?


Hauptman says he asked Kristen's husband Colby Trickle to go to the police station so he could tell investigators what happened.

Erin Moriarty: Did he seem to be cooperative?

Sgt. Brandon Hauptman: He was, yep. Agreed to go up, we got him some shoes.

At the station, Colby Trickle said that hours earlier Kristen Trickle had come home from Walmart, where she worked in the gardening center, and the couple had played video games. He went to bed before his wife, he said, and woke up to his ears ringing — and then found Kristen Trickle, lying next to him, with a gunshot wound to her head.

A tearful Colby Trickle is interviewed by a detective following his wife's death. Ellis County Attorney's Office

COLBY TRICKLE (police interview): I (crying) — I ran up to her and — and she — she was just looking at me.

DETECTIVE #1: And what did you do?

COLBY TRICKLE (crying): I ran over to my phone and I called 911.

Colby Trickle told investigators that while he was on the phone with 911, he checked his wife's pulse but felt nothing — and then picked the revolver off her body.

DETECTIVE #1: Where was the gun at?

COLBY TRICKLE (crying): It was laying by her neck. I pulled it back.

DETECTIVE #1: What did you do with the gun?

For a moment, he says he thought about taking his own life.

COLBY TRICKLE (crying): I started to put — put it to my head and — but I was — I was on the phone — and they said they were sending people. I thought maybe they could help her.

While Colby Trickle was still at the station, Kristen's aunt and uncle,  Delynn and Brant Rice — a local pastor — found out she had died.

Delynn Rice: I got a call from my mom and worst phone call ever to get. She said, Kristen is dead. … She's been shot. And it was just awful. I said, mom, that can't be right. … That can't be right. That doesn't even make sense.

But more baffling was that Colby Trickle had said his wife's death was a suicide.

Erin Moriarty: What did you tell investigators initially? … we just don't think she would do this?

Pastor Brant Rice: Oh, a hundred percent. …I said there's no way of all the people I know in this world, the last person that I would ever think  … would take their own life would be Kristen because of the joy she — she has.

Delynn Rice: It's so out of character to Kristen and how she solves problems … She's not a runner from problems.

Delynn and Brant Rice say Kristen Trickle's family and her two dogs meant the world to her.

Pastor Brant Rice: The thought of her hurting herself in any way is —

Delynn Rice: Or anyone  —  

Pastor Brant Rice:  — is so foreign. … She would never take her life and not tie up loose ends with her family, make sure her dogs had somewhere to go.

And they believe they knew her better than just about anyone else. They had watched her grow up.

Delynn Rice: It is hard to find a photograph she is not smiling just fully.

She had had that smile even though DeLynn and Brant Rice say Kristen Trickle had a tough childhood. Her mother left her and her father when she was 2 years old. When she was 17, Kristen moved in with her aunt and uncle and their three kids. The Rice's say she thrived.

Pastor Brant Rice: She loved being with our family. She loved the peace in our home.

Chloe Rice is Brant and Delynn Rice's daughter.

Chloe Rice: Kristen was my older sister figure in my life … and I really looked up to her. … she was just like always there to make me smile and feel important.

Kristen and Colby Trickle Kristen Trickle/Facebook

The family remembers when Kristen met Colby Trickle; they were both 18 years old.

Pastor Brant Rice: Colby attended our church. Colby, for a time, uh, was on the worship team at our church. … They are the band that plays the worship music during our services.

Pastor Brant Rice: He wowed her with his guitar playing abilities, songs that he had written.

But just five years later, Kristen Trickle was dead and Colby Trickle was saying she took her own life. Coroner Lyle Noordhoek examined the scene and looking at the wound he believed the revolver was in close range to her chin when it was fired. And in Noordhoek's experience, that was not unusual for a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Erin Moriarty: How would you believe … the revolver was being held?

Lyle Noordhoek: Close to the chin and parallel to the body.

Erin Moriarty: More like this?

Lyle Noordhoek: Yeah.

But Detective JB Burkholder had also been called to the house.

Det. JB Burkholder: We respond to suicides. They happen several times a year.

And to him, this didn't seem like suicide.

Det. JB Burkholder: Having a female with a gunshot wound, especially to the head, was unusual for us.

Erin Moriarty: Why? Why is that more unusual for women, you think?

Det. JB Burkholder: For women, they're a little bit more concerned about looks. … even after death, and so they think about that.

And there was something else.

Det. JB Burkholder: When I got there, I remember an alarm going off.

Kristen Trickle's cellphone alarm is heard repeatedly on audio recorded by first responders.

Det. JB Burkholder: I think I've actually silenced it. … She had set an alarm to get up, to get ready for work, and had plans for that day. A lot of times, individuals who are thinking about suicide … They're not setting alarms. it doesn't matter when they get up.

Det. JB Burkholder: … there was candy set out, um, in the kitchen area.

Det. JB Burkholder: She and Colby had planned for, uh, Halloween to go on as it normally would with … trick or treating.

And nothing troubled him more than that weapon found at the scene. Burkholder wasn't sure Kristen Trickle was the one who fired it.

Det. JB Burkholder: The gun … was a … full-size .357 revolver, a large-caliber weapon. … approximately 11 to 12 inches. … It can be hard to handle. … and so being able to … place that gun under your chin … and discharge that firearm just didn't seem very likely … for a smaller female … in what was described as a dark bedroom.

Det. JB Burkholder: This wasn't … an open-and-shut suicide case. There was questions.


After his wife Kristen Trickle died in the early morning hours on Halloween, Colby Trickle spoke with investigators for more than 11 hours. He was asked over and over again to recount the events of the night before.

OFFICER #1 (police interview): Do you, guys have any fights, anything like that yesterday?  


Colby Trickle also told investigators about his job with the U.S. military as part of human intelligence.

COLBY TRICKLE (police interview): There's some interesting places they send you with being intel, but they sent me to Middle East, and they sent me down into Central America.

OFFICER #1: Sounds like some movie stuff right there.

Det. JB Burkholder: First impressions of Colby Trickle … is that he was a guy who … was in the military. He had a, I guess, a decorated past of overseas tours. … And then also Colby Trickle was a guy who loved his wife.

The weapon that killed Kristen Trickle. Ellis County Attorney's Office

But Burkholder says he had questions about Colby Trickle's account of the morning his wife died. After finding Kristen, Colby Trickle says he called 911, and as he later told police, he picked up the gun and thought about ending his life. What troubled Burkholder is where Colby Trickle put the gun after he changed his mind: back on Kristen's stomach.

COLBY TRICKLE (police interview): I put it back down and ran outside.

Det. JB Burkholder: Just very odd. Um, it doesn't seem as though if I'm calling 911, if my wife's dying, um, on — on the bed that I would place the gun back down … on her body.

Colby Trickle was asked if there was any life insurance on Kristen Trickle.

COLBY TRICKLE (police interview): I have some on me (crying) from military, but that's it.

No insurance on his wife, he said, and then was asked if he had anything to do with Kristen Trickle's death.

DETECTIVE #1 (police interview): Uh, did you, in fact, kill her?


Colby Trickle left the police station that day, but first responder Hauptman was increasingly suspicions about Trickle's actions at the scene. He wondered why Colby didn't demand to be by his wife's side as they tried to save her life.

Sgt. Brandon Hauptman: Your wife's inside and here she is, you know, bleeding out … dying and you're on the porch.

While first responders were administering CPR, Colby Trickle was chatting with officers about video games. That conversation was recorded by a police bodycam.

OFFICER (police body cam audio): What kind of games do you guys like to play, "Counter-Strike"?

COLBY TRICKLE: Uh, everything from "Call of Duty" to "Minecraft" …

That day, as investigators got a search warrant for Colby Trickle's cellphone, an autopsy for Kristen Trickle was underway. At the scene, Coroner Noordhoek, who suspected suicide, had looked for any evidence that someone else was involved — like signs of a struggle.

Erin Moriarty: Were there any signs of defensive wounds or any signs that she had fought with anyone before she died.

Lyle Noordhoek: No.

Noordhoek says he also examined Kristen Trickle's body for signs of past physical abuse.

Lyle Noordhoek: Typically … there's … a series of progressive injuries over a period of time, so you can tell that they've been beating on each other. In this case, I wasn't really seeing that. … So, I'm going, well, I have to take the husband's statement at word value that he was there and the gun went off, and she is dead.

Noordhoek says three days after Kristen Trickle's death, based on the information he had at the time, he determined the manner of death was a suicide.

But Brant and Delynn Rice say the more they learned about the facts of the case, the more questions they had.

Delynn Rice: When I heard that it was a gun, I thought there's no way. … We knew Kristen was scared of guns. … Kristen was also very, very, private in her body, very modest. … when I found out she was not dressed, that was shocking to me.

Reflecting on Kristen Trickle's relationship with Colby Trickle, the Rice's told authorities that for years they were bothered by what they say was Colby's controlling behavior.

Pastor Brant Rice: If she didn't immediately respond to a text or wasn't able to answer her phone, he would get very frustrated with her. … he wanted her at his beck and call.

At the time, the Rice's say they told Kristen they had serious concerns about Colby Trickle.

Pastor Brant Rice: We know that she was not happy with us … I believe he convinced her that we were against her. … and therefore she separated herself somewhat.

Kristen decided to marry Colby Trickle and eventually moved almost 300 miles away to Kansas City.

But life for the couple was difficult says Brant Rice. Colby Trickle enlisted with the Army Reserve and did odd jobs. Kristen Trickle worked at a vet clinic; money was tight.

In early 2019, the couple moved back to the Hays area, and the Rice's say Kristen Trickle was coming to their church again.

Delynn Rice: Oh, we were thrilled.

Pastor Brant Rice: We were so thrilled to reconnect with Kristen….and it was just like it was when she lived in our home.

And in the months before her death, they say she was making plans to launch her pet boarding business.

Delynn Rice: She had picked out a little house that's south of town and has a little barn behind it. And she wanted to turn the little barn into the boarding area.

To the Rice family, Kristen seemed happy and excited for her future. But after her death, Brant and Delynn Rice wondered about Colby Trickle — was he capable of murder?


As investigators began digging into Colby Trickle's story, they poured over the data in his cellphone and they discovered Trickle had been exchanging flirtatious snapchat messages with another woman.

Det. JB Burkholder: There's several, I guess, two big aha moments.

Det. JB Burkholder: He, um, had conversations with her  … which would be described as a sexting conversation.

Also on that cellphone, according to Burkholder, was evidence that contradicted what Colby had first told investigators when asked about life insurance on his wife.

COLBY TRICKLE (police interview): I have some on me (crying) from military, but that's it.

Cellphone data revealed that not only was Colby Trickle aware Kristen Trickle was covered by a life insurance policy called SGLI for spouses of military members, in the days before her death, they say he Googled the amount the policy would pay out.

Det. JB Burkholder: Detective Ridgeway was able to find a, well, I believe it was a screenshot of a search that he had conducted 10 days prior to Kristen's death … asking … what his spouse's life insurance would be.

On Nov 4, 2019, investigators asked Colby Trickle to return for more questioning.

INVESTIGATOR #1: Ten days ago you looked up a life insurance issue?

COLBY TRICKLE: When? When? I never did?


COLBY TRICKLE: I never did. If I died?

INVESTIGATOR #1: No. If your spouse died.

Colby Trickle, who agreed to talk without a lawyer, suggested that Kristen Trickle might have done the search herself on his phone.

COLBY TRICKLE (police interview): We always gave each other access to each other's phones and stuff.

Investigators also asked Colby Trickle about his online relationship. He admitted that it had started a few months prior to his wife's death after he met the woman on a group chat while playing video games.

INVESTIGATOR #1 (police interview): Did Kristen find out about that relationship?

COLBY TRICKLE: Not that I know of.

Colby Trickle told them the relationship was a virtual one — that he had never actually met the woman. But investigators discovered he had been texting with her just hours after Kristen Trickle's death while he was still at the police station.

Aaron Cunningham: I guess to his credit, he said that he was busy and couldn't talk right now. Uh, but then he said, I wish I could …

Aaron Cunningham is assistant Ellis County attorney.

Aaron Cunningham: ... which is probably the last thing that you should say to a woman you're having an online affair with when you're being investigated about your wife's death.

When Colby Trickle left the police station after his second interview, Burkholder checked out his claim that Kristen Trickle had used his phone to research life insurance policies.

Det. JB Burkholder: We were able to, uh, get video, surveillance video from the Walmart store.

Kristen Trickle, right, is seen at work on a Walmart surveillance camera at the time the cellphone search was made. Ellis County Attorney's Office

What they discovered was that Kristen Trickle was at work at Walmart at the time the cellphone search was made.

Det. JB Burkholder: We were able to see she didn't have access to a phone.

The inconsistencies in Colby Trickle's statements kept piling up, says Burkholder. Like this one: 

COLBY TRICKLE (police interview): She keeps the revolver on her side.

Colby Trickle had said Kristen Trickle had kept the .357 revolver by her side of the bed, but that didn't seem to line up with what Burkholder saw at the scene.

Det. JB Burkholder: When we looked at the scene … we saw multiple firearms on what was described as Colby's side of the bed.

There were also photos of the couple's bedroom found on Colby Trickle's phone.

A photo of a large-framed revolver on the side of the bed Colby Trickle described as being his was found on his cellphone. Ellis County Attorney's Office

Det. JB Burkholder : So, this picture was taken, I believe, a month prior to Kristen's death. … you see a large-framed revolver … on the side of the bed where Colby Trickle's, uh, described as being his.

Erin Moriarty: And do you think that's the .357?

Det. JB Burkholder: That's the only .357 … in the house that we found.

Det. JB Burkholder: That tells me that … this was Colby's gun.

Still, the investigation stalled.

Erin Moriarty: You have all these investigators who are uncovering more and more evidence that there's something really wrong with this case. … and you've got the coroner who calls this a suicide. I mean, that's a problem, isn't it?

Aaron Cunningham: Uh, it is and it isn't.

Erin Moriarty: It was initially, wasn't it?

Aaron Cunningham: Sure. It was certainly, as — as far as their ability to investigate as efficiently as they normally would.

Cunningham says that the coroner's determination that Kristen Trickle had died by suicide limited the investigators' ability to obtain search warrants.

Aaron Cunningham: There was still elements of the investigation law enforcement wanted to follow up on.

In the winter of 2020, Colby Trickle began collecting payouts from two insurance policies: $23,000 from Walmart and $100,000 from the U.S. military. Meanwhile, investigators continued to learn more about his time in the military.

Det. JB Burkholder: He was a reserve officer in the military that was never deployed.

Erin Moriarty: Wait, so wait a minute. So he was never deployed to Central America?

Det. JB Burkholder He had no overseas … deployments that were told to us by the United States military.

Erin Moriarty: And he had no experience talking to informants … as part of his job as an intelligence analyst?

Det. JB Burkholder: Right.

But even with what looked like blatant lies and an apparent motive to kill his wife, police didn't arrest Colby Trickle. So, in the year after Kristen Trickle's death, authorities watched as Colby went on with his life.

Aaron Cunningham: It is very frustrating to me. … I would run into him in public.

Playing music at a restaurant in town …

Aaron Cunningham: It made my skin crawl.

COLBY TRICKLE (Facebook video): So, whatever storm you're in, keep pushing forward.

And posting Facebook self-help videos:

COLBY TRICKLE (March 2021 Facebook video): Get to the outside where you're free and enjoy life.

But then, nearly two years after Kristen Trickle's death, a newly elected county attorney decided to try something very new that he thought could put Colby Trickle away for life.


County attorney Robert Anderson was just days into his new job in January 2021, when Cunningham and Burkholder pulled him aside.

AARON CUNNINGHAM: JB and I cornered him and said … "This is something that's clearly a homicide … help us to get the nails put in this coffin."

After reviewing the file, Anderson believed that the coroner got it wrong, and that this was a homicide. On July 14, 2021, he charged Colby Trickle with the murder of his wife Kristen Trickle.

Robert Anderson: … certainly the insurance money … provides motive. … But in addition … being in bed next to your husband, naked, shooting oneself in the face … after having set alarms, uh, to get up the next day for work … after setting out candy for Halloween. … These circumstances don't point to a woman who was planning a suicide.

On July 14, 2021, 21 months after Kristen Trickle's death, Colby Trickle was charged with murder in the first degree and interfering with law enforcement. Cassy Zeigler

When police arrested Colby Trickle, he didn't seem surprised.

OFFICER: Hey, uh, I need you to step out of the car and come to the back of the car with me.

OFFICER: Uh, detectives have some questions for you.


OFFICER: … place you under arrest. Turn around and put your hands behind your back.


And he denied killing Kristen Trickle.

COLBY TRICKLE (police interview): I didn't do it. And I know you — I know many people don't believe that, and I respect that. 

Cassy Zeigler: I believe him.

Erin Moriarty: You don't believe that he would shoot his wife?

Cassy Zeigler: I do not.

Cassy Zeigler is one of Colby Trickle's defense attorneys.

Cassy Zeigler: Colby … He cares about his spiritual life. He's a devoted Christian. … I don't see that in him, this ability to connive and plan all of this.

Instead she says, Kristen Trickle had suffered from depression since childhood.

Cassy Zeigler: I think that Kristen dealt with a lot more pain in her life than people acknowledged. … I don't think there's any worse rejection in life than to be rejected by her biological mother at an early age. That's exactly what happened …

Colby Trickle's attorney felt confident. Going into the trial, the coroner was standing by his assessment that Kristen Trickle's death was a suicide.

Erin Moriarty: You had the ability, you had the power to change this determination if you wanted to, prior to trial. 

Lyle Noordhoek: Yes, but — 

Erin Moriarty: You could have — 

Lyle Noordhoek: — but — 

Erin Moriarty: — but you didn't. 

Lyle Noordhoek:  — if I've made a determination, am I gonna change it to homicide based on an accusation before a court proceeding? No.

So Anderson knew he had to do something to convince a jury that Kristen Trickle didn't die by suicide. And that's when he pursued a different type of autopsy — a psychological one — an autopsy of the mind. And to conduct it, Anderson hired a forensic psychologist, Dr. Ashley Christiansen. Her job was to determine Kristen Trickle's state of mind leading up to her death.

Robert Anderson: … being unable to speak with them … because they're, of course, no longer here, they have to speak with their family, their friends, their coworkers. They review any social media, diaries, journals, anything that they can …

Christiansen's conclusions would eventually take center stage at Colby Trickle's trial. It was September 2023, and Prosecutor Cunningham began by telling the jury that Kristen Trickle was murdered for the oldest reasons in the world.

AARON CUNNINGHAM (in court): this case is as simple as A, B, C.

AARON CUNNINGHAM (in court): A, an affair. B, a breakdown of control, and C, cold hard cash.

Colby Trickle's attorney disputed that. Cassy Zeigler says his alleged affair was really just an online flirtation.

Cassy Zeigler: I don't think there was a plan … to have this long-term intimate affair.

Kristen and Colby Trickle Kristen Trickle/Facebook

She also said she doesn't believe that Colby Trickle plotted to kill Kristen Trickle for cash. And about that Google search into the life insurance payout? Zeigler says Colby Trickle doesn't remember doing that search, but she acknowledges he had been filling out paperwork around that time for his own military life insurance and if he did do it, maybe that's why.

Erin Moriarty: It's just a coincidence that this is happening days before his wife died?

Cassy Zeigler: Unfortunately, so. Yeah. Bad timing.

At trial, the jury learned that Colby Trickle had not only collected more than $120,000 from two life insurance policies on his wife — he had already gone through it.

Aaron Cunningham: I think had spent all of the money in approximately eight months.

What did he spend the money on? When Burkholder took the stand, he was asked to describe one expenditure in particular.

AARON CUNNINGHAM (in court) There's a $1,942 payment to True Touch Dolls. Were you able to determine what that was?

DET. JB BURKHOLDER: This is a company that made and manufactures and distributes, life-size sex dolls.

Colby Trickle's attorney says Colby was having trouble sleeping alone and was quite open about the purchase.

Cassy Zeigler: He went and talked to his mother about it.

Erin Moriarty: That's a little odd, I guess.

Cassy Zeigler: Yeah. If you're gonna buy a sex toy ,,, a grown man's not gonna go talk to his mother about this sex doll he's going to buy.

Erin Moriarty: What was your reaction to that?

Pastor Brant Rice: Disgusted. Just disgusted.

Erin Moriarty: It was described at trial that he needed this doll for comfort.

Pastor Brant Rice: … for comfort and warmth. … We have electric blankets that we use for that.

When Brant Rice took the stand, he told the jury that his niece had become more assertive in her relationship with her husband in the months before her death.

PASTOR BRANT RICE: (in court) I feel that she had really begun to stand up for herself. We were proud of her for that.

And there were texts, says Cunningham, that seem to support that Colby Trickle feared he was losing control over Kristen Trickle. On April 8, 2019, when Colby texted that Kristen seemed different and pushy with things, she responded:

Aaron Cunningham (reading text): I'm just deciding to stick up for myself … Just like you, I'm taking control of the situation.

And then prosecutors called their star witness, Dr. Ashley Christiansen.

DR. ASHLEY CHRISTIANSEN (in court) Right around the time of her death, there was a lot of data suggesting that she had a lot of hope.

Christiansen testified that Kristen Trickle talked to family members about future plans and seemed optimistic.

DR. ASHLEY CHRISTIANSEN (in court): She wanted to open her own either pet boarding or dog grooming business and had discussed … this goal for opening her business.

But Christiansen also testified that she interviewed Colby Trickle for her report, and he offered what sounded like a reason why Kristen Trickle might have been stressed. He told the doctor Kristen knew about his online relationship with that other woman.

DR. ASHLEY CHRISTIANSEN (in court): He reported that they had last discussed that relationship the week of her death.

But remember, in his police interview, Colby Trickle had told investigators that he didn't think his wife knew.

DETECTIVE: Did Kristen find out about that relationship?

COLBY TRICKLE: Not that I know of.

Erin Moriarty: So, which is it, did she know? … Or she didn't know?

Cassy Zeigler: I believe she knew.

Whether or not Kristen knew, Dr. Christiansen told the jury she believed that at the time of her death, Kristen was at a low risk for suicide.

DR. CHRISTIANSEN (in court): It is my opinion … that it is relatively less likely that her death was the result of suicide.

Cassy Zeigler: I love those words. Relatively less likely. … that doesn't tell me anything … we can't know the mind of someone who's going to end their life.

Defense attorney Zeigler does not think the report should have been allowed in as evidence. She points out that Christiansen, who never met Kristen Trickle, did interviews and prepared her report nearly two years after Kristen's death. And Zeigler believes people's memories change over time.

Cassy Zeigler: That is a long time to go back and talk to people about Kristen.

But prosecutors thought there was another piece of evidence that could bring them a guilty verdict.


Nearly four years have passed since Kristen Trickle died from a gunshot wound to her head.

Erin Moriarty: How would you describe the last four years?

Pastor Brant Rice: Hellish.

On Sept. 22, 2023, it was Colby Trickle's last chance to convince a jury that he had nothing to do with his wife's death.

He decided not to testify, but his attorney Cassy Zeigler called his mother Tina Kreutzer to the stand.

JEESY ZEIGLER (in court): Is it fair to say that Kristen was pretty reserved at first when you met her?

TINA KREUTZER: Yeah … very to herself.

Kreutzer described her daughter-in-law as a woman who rarely revealed her feelings.

TINA KREUTZER (in court): I couldn't read her, very, um, emotionless.

It's a drastically different Kristen — says attorney Zeigler — than the one her family describes.

Jessy Zeigler: … by their explanation, just the happiest, most joyful person … never stopped smiling. She almost is walking on water. I mean when the reality is we have no idea how she's really feeling … Now you find out he's having an emotional relationship with someone else online. I can imagine that being the last straw.

But in his final argument to the jurors, prosecutor Aaron Cunningham shows them the weapon that killed Kristen, and says she couldn't have fired it.

AARON CUNNINGHAM (in court): Members of the Jury, this doesn't add up. And the state is going to demonstrate it to you.

Cunningham showed "48 Hours" with a similar gun.

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Aaron Cunningham: if you look at the autopsy photos … you see a little divot at the … 3 o'clock mark (points under his chin with his left hand) which is believed by the coroner to be the site imprint of the gun. … And I knew Kristen was right-handed. … the natural way a right-handed person would hold a gun to their head for suicide … would be something like this or maybe something like this  … Putting the sight mark somewhere between 9 o'clock and 6 o'clock. … So, for the site mark to have wound up over at the three o'clock angle would be very unnatural.

Cunningham showed "48 Hours" how he believes Colby Trickle shot his wife while she slept next to him.

Aaron Cunningham: It would be consistent with the placement of the site mark … that he would have grabbed the gun from his nightstand, rolled over in bed and placed the gun just underneath her chin and pulled the trigger.

Erin Moriarty: So, if you keep it here (the gun at chest level coming from the right side), then this then would explain why it appears on her neck here (pointing to the left side of her chin).

Aaron Cunningham: Correct.

As the case went to the jury, Zeigler had hoped that they would still have too many doubts.

Erin Moriarty: How significant is it — the fact that the coroner went to trial, still saying it was a suicide when the prosecutors are saying it's a homicide?

Jessy Zeigler:  Yeah, it's huge.

Jessy Zeigler: We have to show doubt that's reasonable. And I think there's plenty of that.

That's what Kristen Trickle's family feared as well.

Pastor Brant Rice: All they have to do is convince one of those 12 that they have a reasonable doubt. … What are we going to do? … if he walks out a free man …

They don't have to wait long. Less than two hours later, there was a verdict.

JUDGE GLENN BRAUN: Count one, we, the Jury, find the defendant guilty of premeditated murder in the first degree of Kristen Trickle …

Colby Trickle was found guilty of first-degree premeditated murder, and interference with law enforcement, falsely reporting information.

Erin Moriarty: What do you remember of the verdict? What did you hear?

Pastor Brant Rice: … just feeling like I could breathe.

Delynn Rice: Yeah. I felt just the —

Brant Rice: Just feeling of breath.

Delynn Rice:  — the relief for safety for our family.

Brant Rice: I feel like we got our life back. 

Delynn Rice: Yeah.

After the verdict, "48 Hours" spoke with coroner Lyle Noordhoek who said he planned to amend Kristen Trickle's death certificate to now read: homicide.

He admitted he had decided on suicide before talking to anyone in Kristen's family or seeing the weapon used to kill her.

Erin Moriarty: But I'm a little surprised. … Wouldn't that have been important for you to make – 

Lyle Noordhoek: Well, the police should know. 

Erin Moriarty: — to know the size of the weapon, to be able to make your death — investigation determination. 

Lyle Noordhoek: The police should have all that information and it's usually correlated with the pathologist, but it wasn't in this case.

Erin Moriarty: … the fact that he had done research on insurance. Were you aware of that? 

Lyle Noordhoek: No. 

Erin Moriarty: Were you aware that they found evidence that he was having an online affair? 

Lyle Noordhoek: No, they didn't share that with me, either.

Erin Moriarty: If you had known that, would you have left that as suicide? 

Lyle Noordhoek: No.

Investigators acknowledge they should have done a better job keeping him informed.

On Nov. 20, 2023, Colby Trickle returned to court for sentencing admitting only that he could have been a better husband.

COLBY TRICKLE: Something that I cannot apologize for is harming Kristen that morning because I cannot apologize for what I didn't do … Regardless of that fact, I still take partial blame for that morning. I always wonder if she would still be here, had I been a better husband.

Judge Glenn Braun sentenced Colby Trickle.

JUDGE: The court will sentence you to life in prison with no possibility of parole for 50 years …

With Colby Trickle in prison, the Rice's say their family is finally beginning to grieve the young woman gone way too soon.

Kristen's cousin, Chloe Rice, who grew up with Kristen, wrote a song for her.

Chloe Rice (singing): "Sometimes I think about how my world changed  …. I thought we'll never say goodbye… until the end of time … I never had the chance so now I'm telling you goodbye."

Erin Moriarty: How often do you think about Kristen?

Delynn Rice: All the time. Every day.

Pastor Brant Rice: Oh, every day. You know, we drive by that little house.

The house where Kristen Trickle one day hoped to start her dream business.

Erin Moriarty: You call it Kristen's house, don't you?

Pastor Brant Rice: Yeah. … She had a future. She had found her faith again.

Delynn Rice: When you were with her, you felt loved … A beautiful heart, a gentle, gentle spirit. … And she was just an amazing girl.

If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline  at 1-800-799-7233.


Erin Moriarty and "48 Hours" producer Asena Basak and field producer Iris Carreras delve deeper into the text messages between Kristen and Colby Trickle, which prosecutors allege showed his motive for murder. They also discuss why Colby Trickle claimed he needed to buy a life-size sex doll with the insurance money he received after his wife's death.  

Produced by Asena Basak. Michelle Sigona and Tami Weitzman are the development producers. Iris Carreras is the field producer. Marlon Disla, Grayce Arlotta-Berner, Joan Adelman and Michael Vele are the editors. Patti Aronofsky is the senior producer.


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