LEWISTON – As the Demetri Ewing trial goes into its last day, the defense officially began their case with an opening statement from Greg Rauch, who explained to the jury the holes he believes are in the investigation and asked them to keep an open mind.
Rauch mentioned it is impossible to believe an induvial is a particular height they clearly are not. He pointed out that Patricia Labombard testified she is 5’2, and the person who she believed to be the suspect was five to six inches taller. However, Demetri was 5’2 at the time of his arrest. Rauch urged the jury to “look at what was missed”, and explained dirty electrical tape found in Labombard’s purse was never analyzed, even though the bag with electrical tape found at the scene had dirt in it as well.
“Police in this matter immediately heard who they thought did it and persuade it… All the evidence was directed at making sure it fit,” Rauch said. “They could have looked for other routes, other cameras, other suspects, and they didn’t.”
Rauch questioned who the third person in the shooting had to have been. He further explained the jury heard testimonies of a third, unknown individual’s DNA at the scene. There was two Fruit of the Loom sweatshirt tags found, one an XL, and one a male medium, however, Demetri wears a woman’s small. There was also a third bike at the Hacienda Lodge never investigated, with a smaller seat than the others, tucked away behind the two believed to be used the night of the crime.
Lastly, Rauch explained to the jury Demetri was kicked out of their residence at the Hacienda Lodge two days before Christmas and was forced to spend the holiday at a homeless shelter. He brought up the photo of guns taken at the Hacienda Lodge found on both the Ewing’s phones and questioned why Clyde would send a picture to someone in the same room.
In an effort to further prove the holes detectives left in this investigation, the defense called Private Investigator Charles Schoonover to the stand, however, not as an expert witness. Elected Prosecutor for Nez Perce County, Justin Coleman objected to Schoonover’s ability to render an opinion, or conclusion as an expert due to his lack of education.
Schoonover was able to testify as to what he would have done differently based on his experiences as a Private Investigator working with 25-30 murder cases in Northern Idaho, and as an Officer in Sandpoint. He explained the first thing he would have done differently is separate the potential witnesses at the crime scene instead of having them stand outside together.
“I would have taken them to a place of solitude… [to] keep their minds and recollections as clean as possible,” Schoonover said. “Everyone sees an incident differently and under the stress of that event having just occurred, they could be confused and say ‘oh well that is what Fred said so that is what I saw too’.”
Schoonover further explained instead of leaving potential evidence like a pair of gloves and tape at a crime scene, he would have taken photos and preserved them. He mentioned that leaving them outside for several days could potentially contaminate them. As for the bullet in the wall, Schoonover stated he would have used a laser in an attempt to reconstruct the crime scene and possibly locate where the shooter was standing.
Using a ruler more in crime scene photos, using a professional camera instead of a cellphone for video evidence, and more were also on Schoonover’s list of corrections. Towards the end of his testimony, Schoonover mentioned he would have widened the scope of area and time in his video surveillance to ensure he could find anything that could possibly link to the case.
In cross-examination, Coleman’s questions revealed to the jury that Schoonover spent about 35 hours total reviewing the case. He did not see any of the evidence in person, however, he explained he reviewed the discovery provided for the case digitally.
Next to the stand, via zoom, was expert Forensic Analyst Dr. Randell Libby. He testified to reviewing the DNA swab from the tape on the zip tie handcuffs found at the scene. He explained that the Loci in the DNA simply were not a match to Demetri or Clyde Ewing. Dr. Libby stated in order for ISP to get the match they did, they would have had to impose assumptions of dropout.
“You essentially tell the program well let’s assume, although the evidence does not match, in this case to Demetri Ewing, it is there, does he then match? There is not actual data. You are just making an assumption based on some suspect… You are assuming not only the allele is present, but it is also Demetri’s.”
During cross-examination from Chief Deputy Prosecutor April Smith, Libby explained he did not perform any of his own tests on the sample, just reviewed the analysis from ISP.
The last witness to take the stand was Gaylan Warren, who is a self-employed forensic scientist at Columbia International Forensic Laboratory, specializing in firearm and toolmark analysis. With starting his laboratory 51 years ago, the court easily identified him as an expert. Warren explained that he believed that all the shell casings did come from the same weapon. However, to know more about the gun, the bullets should have been tested as well.
Warren stated that the property log of evidence shows that bullets were located at the crime scene and not examined. He further explained if they were, one could determine the firearm type and possibly the model and the manufacturer who made it. Warren mentioned in a no-gun case like this, examining the bullets could have helped officers know what type of weapon to locate.
To end the day, Ewing did exercise his 5th amendment right and decided not to testify. Court will reconvene tomorrow, April 21 at 9 a.m. to hear the closing statement from both councils and submit the case to the jury for their consideration.