Adeena Copell

Adeena Copell testifies in court Friday during a murder trial in connection with the death of Howard Vinge in 2016.

The defense attorney for Adeena Copell, the woman accused of helping her boyfriend kill a Newport man, painted her on Friday as a victim trapped between the killing of a friend and the love for his murderer.

Prosecutors, however, detailed her complicity and lack of initial effort to report the crime.

Copell faces charges of murder, second-degree abuse of a corpse and two counts of unauthorized use of a vehicle. Christian Wilkins, her boyfriend, pleaded guilty to the same charges earlier this month.

Copell allegedly helped Wilkins bludgeon 71-year-old Howard Vinge to death, stuff his body in a bag and dump it down an embankment along U.S Highway 30 east of Astoria.

The couple allegedly absconded with Vinge’s RV, with a car in tow. They abandoned the RV after it broke down on U.S. Highway 26 near Hamlet and drove Vinge’s car to Arizona, where they were later apprehended.

Alexander Hamalian, Copell’s defense attorney, had her recount a life of physical and sexual abuse leading to a similar dynamic of subservience in her relationship with Wilkins.

“You did as you were told,” he said repeatedly in court on Friday.

The couple met Vinge in 2016 in Newport, where he offered them a place to stay in the RV in exchange for labor. They lived with Vinge for about two months before his murder, which allegedly occurred following an argument between Vinge and Wilkins in Astoria over moving the RV.

Vinge died of blunt-force trauma from a driftwood club. Copell testified to having heard and seen part of the attack, but not taking part. After having beaten someone to death in front of her, Wilkins made her fear for her life, Copell said.

Copell had initially corroborated a story with Wilkins about Vinge’s death, but later confessed to police that he killed Vinge.

While in custody, she attempted to recant her confession and say Wilkins had killed Vinge in self-defense after he attacked the couple. She passed notes back and forth with Wilkins in jail in an attempt to corroborate a story.

Hamalian, describing Copell as trapped between a dead friend and a lover, asked Copell what made her ultimately choose to come clean.

“Because it was the right thing to do,” Copell said, at points breaking down in tears. The police “told me that somebody had dropped Howard on the side of the road like garbage.”

“That was the breaking point?” Hamalian asked.

“Howard wasn’t garbage,” Copell said.

In his cross-examination, Deputy District Attorney Beau Peterson recounted the chain of events before, during and after Vinge’s death, and how Copell had initially not admitted to authorities what had happened.

Peterson also pointed out how Copell had attempted to clean the motor home after the disposal of Vinge’s body.

Peterson asked Copell about her comment that Vinge was not garbage. “Yet that is how you guys treated Mr. Vinge after he was murdered,” he added.

Copell’s trial is expected to close next week.

Edward Stratton is a reporter for The Astorian. Contact him at 971-704-1719 or

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