LEWISTON – The jury trial for Clyde Ewing started off with opening statements, and testimony from the first eight witnesses on Monday, May 16.
Elected Prosecutor Justin Coleman told the jury in his opening statement that the shooting of Samuel Johns was planned and executed. He explained the Ewing’s went to the Johns residence on January 8, 2021, with the intent to rob and burglarize it. However, that didn’t happen. Coleman mentioned Clyde involved his 16-year-old son and left a trail of evidence on the way to Johns home.
“The evidence will point to this murder occurring because of Clyde’s obsession with a bag,” Coleman said. “After not being able to take it back, Clyde decided to take matters into his own hands… Clyde had a plan that he prepared and executed, but he was sloppy… After you have been able to follow that trail of evidence yourself, I am confident you will find him guilty.”
Cuddihy used his opening statement to tell the jury the Johns residence was bustling in the early, cold, morning hours of January 8. He explained the government is wrong in this case against Ewing, and they plan to prove it with the state’s witnesses.
“Clyde didn’t shoot a soul,” Cuddihy said. “You absolutely cannot find Clyde Ewing guilty of that because he didn’t shoot a soul. There is no evidence that is what happened… There is only one just verdict here, and that is to find the defendant, Clyde Ewing, not guilty.”
The first witness of the day was the only eyewitness to the crime, Patricia Labombard. She explained to the jury she was at the Johns residence to smoke a few bowls of marijuana and listen to some music. She had only met Johns that night and did not know exactly who the other individuals in the house were.
“I have been smoking since I was 11 and I am 30,” Labombard said. “I have a very high tolerance. I remember everything that happened that night.”
Labombard told the jury that one of the individuals that stormed in was smaller and skinnier, with a voice like a young woman. Meanwhile, the other was larger, bigger, and obviously a man. She explained with a gun to her spine, she was told by the ‘smaller one’ to get on the ground as her hands were being zip tied behind her back. She testified that the individual left after hearing a scuffle in the other room and she was able to free herself and hide in the bathroom.
After hearing two to three gunshots and the two individuals leaving, Labombard explained she exited the bathroom and saw Johns on his back, bleeding out. She immediately called 911 and the jury listed to those moments with sobs from family members sitting in the courtroom. During the call, you can hear the operator walking Labombard through what to do if he stops breathing as she is pleading for help.
“I don’t think he felt anything, but he didn’t look good,” Labombard said through sobs. “I have never seen that much blood in my life… I tried to help him and he died. I felt his last breath. I could feel it under my hands. I still feel it. As they walked in, I knew he had died.”
In cross-examination, Cuddihy asked Labombard if she knew anything about the white Dodge pickup that came when she was there. Or, if she knew anything about the other drugs being used. However. she did not. She did explain she heard Johns argue with the individuals dressed in all black that stormed into the house.
Roby Spooner, Lewiston Fire Department paramedic took the stand second to explain how he performed lifesaving efforts on Johns. He told the jury what it was like on the scene, mentioning there was a plethora of blood, however, he did not know who shot Johns.
Next to the stand was the first arriving officer to the scene, LPD officer Sgt. Chris Reese. He explained that the scene was organized chaos. He issued witnesses outside while working to control the scene, however, they were not allowed to take any belonging to stay warm due to the sensitivity of the crime. Sgt. Reese explained he did an initial walkthrough with Detective Erickson when he arrived and then did scene security.
In cross-examination, he explained typically, the protocol is to separate witnesses, however, that was challenging due to the manpower Sgt. Reese had. He told the jury he saw zip ties on the floor and two spent shell casings in the entry to the living room.
Lewiston Police Officer Andrew Fox was next to testify. He explained it was below freezing the night of the shooting. Officer Fox said he was responsible for watching six individuals to himself, while also watching his surroundings, as he was unaware of what happened with the suspects. Officer Fox explained that everyone except for Labombard had no idea what happened, and was frustrated and cold. When he was able, he transported Labombard to the police station separate to be interviewed and returned to the scene shortly after to canvas the area.
The jury was able to see photos of Officer Fox’s findings during his initial canvas, and see the location on a map of the area. He found zip tie handcuffs with electrical tape around the middle, which Officer Thomas stayed next to. Officer Fox also noticed footprints in the frost in a southeast direction which he followed to find another set in the road on 8th Avenue. After following these, he found another set of handcuffs and a Walmart bag with electrical tape inside at a retaining wall.
In cross-examination, Officer Fox explained that he believed Aaron Middleton, an individual at the scene that night, appeared to be under the influence and was wearing a black coat. Office Fox also stated that witnesses were together for up to 20 minutes, as he simply didn’t have the ability to keep them separated, even though he would have liked to.
Spokane Medical Examiner Dr. Jennifer Nara took the stand next to explain autopsy photos to the jury. She testified that Johns had a gunshot wound to his face and neck and the gunshot wounds were at a downward angle. However, that does not help her determine the height of the shooter as Dr. Nara does not know the position Johns was in during the incident. She did say considering the direction of fire is downward, the shooter would have needed to be taller than Johns. Or, Johns would have needed to be bent over.
Dr. Nara also explained in cross-examination that Johns had around 1,900 nanograms of methamphetamine in his system. Considering this is a stimulant, Dr. Nara stated this could make him more aggressive. She also explained that there were bruises on Johns that could have indicated a scuffle before the shooting.
Next to testify was Quad Cities Drug Taskforce Detective Bryson Aase, who assisted with the surveillance of the Ewing’s at the Hacienda Lodge in Clarkston on January 12, 2021. He explained he was on surveillance for around an hour or two, before they came out around 6:30 p.m.
“We were asked to look at room 126,” Detective Aase said. “I observed two males come out. They stood outside for a second then they started walking towards Bridge Street… That is when the marked units arrived and we were able to detain them.”
Clarkston Police Officer Tom Sparks was next to testify in regards to detaining the Ewing’s. Officer Sparks explained he had several run-ins with Demetri Ewing and would describe his voice as young, like a teenage boy. On the day they were detained, Officer Sparks helped with escorting Clyde to the Asotin County Jail.
“I just happened to be right there,” Officer Sparks said. “I pulled up next to Clyde and Demetri and recognized them… I drew my firearm and pointed it at them because they were known to carry weapons.”
The last witness for the day was Jason Leavitt, who at the time of the incident, was an LPD Detective Sgt. For this case, Lt. Leavitt was in charge of assigning tasks and collecting evidence. On January 16, 2021, Lt. Leavitt walked up the Levee to see if there was any evidence in an area, as they believed the suspects rode their bikes there. Here, he found two tags for black sweatshirts, which were linked back to the Ewings.
On January 27, 2021, Lt. Leavitt went to Walmart and purchased zip ties he believed were the same as the ones used during the shooting. In the end, he was able to determine it was the same ones purchased by Ewing on January 1, 2021, through video evidence in the store.
In cross-examination, Cuddihy questioned how tags were found eight days after the incident in the winter, still intact. Lt. Leavitt stated he didn’t know how it got there, but that is where it was when he found them. In regards to the zip ties, Lt. Leavitt was asked if anyone else that purchased zip ties on the same day as Ewing was investigated, and he stated they were not.
Court will be back in session Tuesday, May 17 at 9 a.m. Daily Fly will continue our daily updates of the trial.