Credibility of key witness challenged in trial of man accused of killing 2, burying bodies

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Elise Garcia and Alan Champagne (Sources: Arizona Dept. of Corrections and 3TV/CBS 5 file photo) Elise Garcia and Alan Champagne (Sources: Arizona Dept. of Corrections and 3TV/CBS 5 file photo)
Elise Garcia (Source: Arizona Department of Corrections) Elise Garcia (Source: Arizona Department of Corrections)
Alan Champagne was in an Arizona state prison from 1992 to 2005 serving a sentence for second-degree murder. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5 file photo) Alan Champagne was in an Arizona state prison from 1992 to 2005 serving a sentence for second-degree murder. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5 file photo)
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

A lawyer for an Arizona man charged with killing two people and burying their bodies in his mother's backyard attacked the credibility of her client's girlfriend because she was given a lenient prison sentence for her role in the deaths.

Attorney Maria Schaffer told jurors Monday that the only evidence linking Alan Mathew Champagne to the two 2011 killings came from his girlfriend, Elise Garcia.

Garcia was sentenced to 16 years in prison last fall after pleading guilty to murder in the death of one of the victims, Brandi Hoffner, and is expected to testify at Champagne's trial.

Authorities say the 46-year-old Champagne killed Hoffner and Philmon Tapaha at his apartment in July 2011, put their bodies in a plywood box and buried it a half-mile away at his mother's home.

The trial opened with a prosecutor describing the strangulation death of one of the victims.

Jurors were told in opening statements Monday that he used a wrench to crank up tension on an electrical cable that was wrapped around Hoffner's neck.

Prosecutor Ellen Dahl says Hoffner was forced to smoke methamphetamine moments after witnessing the 46-year-old Champagne shoot her boyfriend.

The bodies were found 20 months later buried in a plywood box outside a home where Champagne's mother once lived.

Champagne pleaded not guilty to charges stemming from the 2011 deaths.

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