Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Roommate asked ‘if God forgives murderers?’

From page A1 | April 04, 2014 |

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ANDREW SANFORD enters the courtroom Wednesday morning, walking by victim Richard Swanson's parents seated in the audience. Democrat photo by Krysten Kellum

Day seven of the Andrew Sanford trial concerning a 33-year-old murder began with evidence and ended with the defendant’s roommate telling the court Tuesday she thought the defendant might have killed someone in the past — possibly the victim.

Richard Hartman, the South Lake Tahoe Police Department evidence technician and CSI at the scene of the Richard Swanson murder at the South Y Shell gas station in 1980 took the stand again for re-direct questioning. Prosecutor Trish Kelliher presented Hartman with the ledger for chain of custody of the evidence from the case.

A roll of duct tape, duct tape found on Swanson’s midsection, hands and face and a blood sample were all sent to the state Department of Justice in 1980, the ledger read.

Evidence collected at the mortuary was not taken out of the evidence van when Hartman returned to the gas station later that day, he testified.

He did not collect a phone with a bloody fingerprint on the receiver as the print showed a glove was worn and no actual fingerprint was left. Items that did have bodily fluids on them were put in an evidence refrigerator in the police office.

Answering questions from defense attorney Erik Schlueter, Hartman said that Sgt. Art Ritter did not have access to the evidence room and that any evidence he booked at the scene was put in a locker with a form, later to be moved by Hartman. There was “not much” in the ledger to determine which evidence had actually been seized.

After Hartman was excused, James Jeffery, a former FBI criminalist, was called to the stand. He testified to having received wood chips, a yellow shirt, a sample of Swanson’s blood, a brown and black shirt, a master lock and a roll of duct tape. While untangling some of the duct tape, he accidentally overstretched one portion of it, his notes from the time stated. He tried to match the ends of the tape with the end of the roll.

On the lock, he noted, was a blood stain. It was collected and stored.

As he had performed the inspection of the items in 1980, he said there were no standard practices for wearing gloves. There was no practice for changing butcher paper the items were set on other than if the paper was soiled. His notes implied, he said, that he had multiple items open at once. He had no independent recollection of the items and was going solely off of his notes.

Former Anaheim Police Officer Paul Haas was called. He testified that on April 6, 1982, at around 2:53 a.m., he found a suspect in a hole in the roof of Anaheim Jewelry and Loan Co. When he told the suspect to freeze, the man did so. About 8 feet of duct had been removed from the roof, with a black TV antenna wire sticking out. A metal pry bar was found, along with a brown shoulder bag containing a screwdriver, wire cutters, a knotted cord, a clock radio, three segments of necklace chain and a few quarters. Grey leather gloves were also collected. Haas remembered the suspect as a Hispanic male in his 20s, though his report noted the man was Caucasian.

The report did not note that the suspect was half in, half out of the hole, but instead kneeling next to it, Schlueter pointed out. “Cardo was kneeling over what appears to be a hole in the roof,” Haas read. Michael Cardo was, according to a stipulation, a name defendant Andrew Sanford gave upon his arrest.

The final witness of the day was Jenna Weller. She quickly identified Sanford, whom she met in 2010.

Weller’s friend, Natalie, had been a roommate of Sanford’s. When Natalie moved out, Weller moved in, as she needed a place to stay. It was sometime in the summer of 2010, she recalled.

His children were there and hers moved in, but there were no other adults, she said. They were friends. “I dated him, I guess,” she said, adding that they hung out and had a sexual relationship. She didn’t consider it an exclusive relationship, nor did she think he did. Sanford’s son’s mother, Tammy, “came around a lot,” she said.

Dec. 6, 2010, was the last day she saw Sanford. She got a load of her belongings and left, leaving other things behind. Before Sanford, she had lived with another friend; before that, she lived with her parents. Though her mother’s calendar shows Weller moved out on Sept. 25, Weller disputes that — she spent her birthday, Aug. 10, with Sanford in their house. Her relationship with her parents was strained at the time.

Weller had a conversation with Sanford regarding religion shortly after she moved in. It was the evening, she was on her second beer, he also had a drink and they were in his bedroom. She was sitting on the bed, he was standing next to his dresser — a typical configuration for their conversations.

“He asked me if I thought God forgave murderers,” she testified. “‘Oh, absolutely, I think so,’” she replied. She gave her reasoning, citing the Bible, that God did indeed forgive people such as King David and the Apostle Paul. She asked why he was curious, and he told her that when he was younger, “he and his friends did something and he thought someone died.” He asked if she could kill; she said she could if it came down to “you or me, it’s always you — I want to live.”

She said she honestly didn’t want to know what he was talking about as she needed a place to stay and she didn’t want to get into “some kind of moral quandary.” She changed the subject “to something lighter.”

Later, it became a joke when Natalie made Sanford, “a killer,” cry. She conceded they were not being nice at the time.

The trial then ended for the day, with Weller set to take the stand again Wednesday morning.





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