Drug Gang Murder Trial - Week 5
Note: To catch up on the first four weeks of this drug gang, murder trial of Sammy and Juan Duque, Marco Antonio Cordero, Daniel Villenas-Reyes, and Shane Rosser, go to “Archives”, and click on “Feature Stories”.
Friday Morning, February 15, 2008 - Prosecution Rests
The defense team concluded its extensive cross examination of FBI Case Agent Robert W. Meadows, and will begin defense this afternoon.
Sparks flew a few times when exchanges got testy between defense attorney Mike Trost and Bob Meadows. Trost, who repeatedly tried to impeach both Meadows’ and previous witnesses’ testimony, appeared to get his interview dates relative to specific quotes wrong a number of times, and would insist that Meadows was incorrect. Then, Meadows would have to correct him. At one point, even Judge Harold Murphy jumped in the fray, and told Trost to move on.
While most of the cross examination centered around various reports written or dictated by Meadows, at one point, Trost asked Agent Meadows to read from a handwritten police incident report. Meadows explained that he would be glad to if he had brought his glasses. After some discourse, Mike Trost lent Meadows his glasses. It was déjà vu for this reporter, although attorney Mike Trost did not call Agent Meadows any sexual names after that exchange.
Defense testimony will begin at 1:45pm.
Thursday Evening, February 14, 2008 - Close, But No Cigar
The government had planned to rest its case this afternoon, after the testimony by the Case Agent, FBI Special Agent Robert W. Meadows, but the defense team requested that they be allowed the rest of the afternoon and evening to prepare for Meadows’ cross examination.
Despite the fact that Assistant United States Attorney Kim Dammers’ direct examination concluded just before 3:00pm, Mike Trost, speaking for the team of lawyers, told Judge Harold Murphy that they were not expecting Meadows to be called today, and that they needed time to prepare for his cross examination. He promised that if Judge Murphy gave them until the morning, that the process would be much more organized and take much less time.
Earlier, defense attorney Bob Citronberg had told the court that the defense team did not expect to go past Tuesday afternoon to launch their defense. This would be less than a two day defense strategy, given that Monday is a federal holiday, and the courthouse will be closed.
Judge Murphy granted the defense team’s request to continue Agent Meadows’ cross examination, and told jurors that court would be recessed until tomorrow morning at 9:30am.
Special Agent Meadows, who began this case at the request of several agencies, formally came on in January, 2004, as the Case Agent. The FBI worked with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, (ICE), the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, (GBI), local law enforcement entities, including the Polk County Police, the Cedartown Police, the Polk County Sheriff’s Department, the Floyd County Sheriff’s Department and the Floyd County Police Department, as well as the Polk and Floyd County District Attorney’s Offices.
Meadows’ cross examination will begin at 9:30am Friday morning.
Thursday Morning, February 14, 2008 - The Prosecution May Rest Today
After almost five weeks of testimony, the prosecution will be wrapping up this afternoon, with their final witness, Special Agent Robert W. Meadows, FBI, who has spear headed this long term Drug Gang Investigation.
First to take the stand this morning was Robert Baldini, from the Asset Management and Security Department of ATT/Cingular Wireless. Baldini testified about various record keeping capabilities of the cell phone accounts, which also include detailed reports of incoming and outgoing calls.
Mary Lou Leitner, currently a Latent and Fingerprint Specialist with the Secret Service, the took the stand, and explained in great detail the difference between finger prints and latent prints, and the process for comparing the two. Leitner, who was with the FBI as a Finger Print Specialist, before transferring to the Secret Service, performed testing on the duct tape recovered from the 7th Street murders.
In fingerprint analysis, a four step process, known by its acronym of ACE-V method is used, in which latent prints are lifted from a crime scene, are compared to known finger prints, taken by inking the ridges on the fingers, palms and soles of the feet. These are locations of “friction ridges”, which allow us, as humans, to grip and grasp, or gain traction with our hands and feet.
Level 1 includes an over all comparison of the ridge flow as well as pattern type, whether an arch, loop or whirl. During this step, the orientation of the print is considered as well, and the presence of any scars or special creases is noted, compared, and if there is no similarity, the process stops.
Level 2 takes in to consideration the individual ridge path, whether it is continuous, or whether it ends, divides, or is a dot.
Level 3 measures the number and arrangement of pores, the shape of the ridge edges, (convex verses concave, etc), and the width of the ridges. Evaluation of the spatial relation between features is also done.
Level 4 assumes there is a match between known finger prints and latents lifted, and the whole process is then repeated by a second, independent Fingerprint expert for verification.
Unfortunately, the duct tape Ms. Leitner was asked to evaluate was so badly damaged from the fire, heat, smoke and water that she was not able to lift any latent prints.
Next up on the stand was Juan Flores Calderon, who did not get in to testimony about what Marco Antonio Cordero had said about co-conspirators Shane Rosser and Daniel Villenas-Reyes, which would have violated the Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment. However, with the deftly structured direct examination by Assistant United States attorney Kim Dammers, he did testify about what Cordero had said about an unnamed individuals involved in the Cunningham Road murders, as well as the unnamed individual involved in 7th Street Murders.
Calderon was also able to testify to Cordero’s telling him that he always used gloves when he was dealing drugs, to leave no fingerprints.
Cordero also allegedly bragged to Calderon about his having paid $30,000.00 to buy his escape from the Polk County jail, and was planning another escape again, promising to kill the witnesses against him, as well as members of the prosecution.
But possibly the most critical element of Calderon’s testimony, was that Marco Antonio Cordero admitted to Calderon that he was a member of the Mexican Mafia. The Mexican Mafia, has an American offshoot, Sur 13. “Sur” is short for “Surenos” or “Southsiders” or “Southerners”. The number “13” represents the 13th letter of the alphabet, “M”, which stands for the Mexican Mafia, aka “La Eme”. This gang originated in Los Angeles and Southern California, hence the name “Southerners”, which translates perfectly to the Deep South, both literally and figuratively.
One analogy would be that the Sur 13 is to the Mexican Mafia as the Masons are to the Shiner’s. Sur 13 is like a training ground for the Mexican Mafia. Members of Sur 13 may act as enforcers for the Mexican Mafia, and the hardest of members will eventually graduate in to the Mexican Mafia. (For more on gang activity, click on “Archives”, then “Breaking News” and find the September 13, 2007 reprint of a series I wrote for another news website back in June).
Detective Michael Anthony Bowman, currently a fixed-wing aircraft pilot for the State of Georgia, testified shortly before lunch, as to the traffic stop on June of 2001, when he was with the Cedartown Police Department. During this stop, at 5:30 in the morning, Bowman arrest Ray Corn and Sammy Duque, when he found marijuana in the car during a consent search.
Sgt. Bowman also testified about discovering a bag of white powdery substance during a search of the Duque residence later in April of 2004.
Testimony will resume at 1:30pm.
Wednesday Evening, February 13, 2008
Juan Hernandez, owner of a Mexican Restaurant in Cedartown near 7th Street, in 2003, took the stand this afternoon, to prove that a statement given to Sgt. Molock by Daniel Villenas-Reyes, back in 2003, about his where about the day of the murders, was not true.
Earlier this morning, Sgt. Molock testified about his first interview of Daniel Villenas-Reyes, during which Villenas-Reyes said that he had been near the 7th Street house the day of the murders/arson, but that he had been inside the restaurant talking to Juan Hernandez. Sgt. Molock said that during the course of the interview, Villenas-Reyes changed his story, saying that he stood out side in the parking lot that Tuesday afternoon, not inside the restaurant, talking to Juan Hernandez.
When Mr. Hernandez took the stand this afternoon, he explained that his restaurant was only open on Friday through Sunday, and that it was never open during the week, not even to receive deliveries. He also explained that while he knew Villenas-Reyes, he had certainly not seen him the day of the murders and arson. His memory was clear, because on that day, he had been driving his daughter to the hospital and when they saw the fire trucks, they followed to see what was going on. He saw many police and firemen, and saw the burn victim lying in the yard.
GBI Special Agent J.W. Foster took the stand after Hernandez, to complete his cross examination which was suspended several weeks ago due to an illness. Once defense attorneys were completed with Agent Foster, GBI Special Agent Jeff Branyon took the stand, but not before some legal wrangling between the prosecution and the defense team.
At issue was the anticipated testimony of witnesses Tim Morrison and Juan Flores Calderon, who would testify about comments made by two of the co-conspirators, Juan Duque and Marco Antonio Cordero. Judge Murphy ruled that comments and actions witnessed by Tim Morrison could be used, but that comments by Juan Flores Calderon, not a co-conspirator, would create irreversible error, requiring a mistrial.
Juan Flores Calderon was to testify about comments supposedly made by co-conspirator Marco Antonio Cordero, about co-conspirator Shane Rosser. Since a defendant cannot be forced to testify against himself, (Fifth Amendment), Shane Rosser would not have the chance to confront Cordero about comments he allegedly made to Calderon. This would violate what is known as the Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment’s protection to confront one’s accusers.
Once these issues were settled, Special Agent Branyon took the stand. Branyon, who is assigned to the North Eastern Georgia office of the GBI, was filling in for Special Agent Audey Murphy on September 16, 2003. It was Branyon who performed the Crime Scene Investigation at the 7th Street murder/arson site.
Branyon identified various photos he had taken at the scene, as well as the knife recovered from the room where the fire was started. One of the photos showed the bodies of the two victims prior to their removal from the scene, necessary to show the proximity of the victims to each other, and to the source of the fire.
It should be noted again, that the female victim has never been identified, and of course not claimed. Officials believe she was from Guatemala, but the Guatemalan government will not assist in her identification. Jane Doe’s remains were cleaned, and her bones have been archived with a Federal Anthropologist. Whoever killed Jane Doe did not find value in her life. The government of her homeland has not either. The government of the United States values her life, her loss and her remains, and is vigorously prosecuting this case on behalf of she and the other victims.
After Special Agent Branyon left the stand, Tim Morrison, (aka Tim Taylor), testified about the fight between Marco Antonio Cordero and Steven Brown, in the Center, Alabama prison. Several other witnesses have testified about this incident, who were all housed in the same cell block/pod in March of 2005. Morrison also testified about being present when Juan Duque came in to his cell, where Bobby Joe Johnson, (Magoo) was sitting. According to Morrison, Duque told Johnson that he had better not testify against him.
Morrison said that Duque and Cordero were removed from the cell pod that day, but that Duque returned about a month later. Morrison said that he stayed away from Duque, but that on New Years Eve, Juan Duque approached him, and told him that if he testified against him, or any other Mexican, he would kill Morrison.
Testimony will resume tomorrow morning at 9:30am.
Wednesday Morning, February 13, 2008
The government’s first witness up this morning was Glenn Smith, owner of the rental house at 506 7th Street in Cedartown, Georgia, where the shooting and arson murders occurred in September 2003. The prosecution had to make it clear that the fire was not set with permission by the owner, because apparently, in the State of Georgia, as long as the owner does not try to collect on insurance, it is not illegal for the owner to burn his/her own house down.
Jason Flater, currently a Firearms Examiner with the Austin, Texas, Police Department, took the stand after Mr. Smith. Flater was with the GBI Crime Lab in late 2003, and conducted ballistics testing, or projectile testing for projectiles recovered during autopsies of each of the three 7th Street murders , as well as analysis of items recovered from the Cunningham Road murder crime scene and the resulting two autopsies.
From the September, 2003 7th Street murders, Flater was able to compare slugs from each victim. In each case, a 38 caliber slug was recovered, indicating that the weapon used could have been either a 38 caliber, a 38 Special, or a 357 Magnum. The slug recovered from the female victim was a copper clad, while the two recovered from the other victims were just lead, prohibiting a comparison to determine if all three slugs were fired from the same gun, as the copper jacket distorts the effect on a copper jacketed bullet. However, microscopic examination and comparison of the two lead slugs revealed unique 5-groove right-hand rifling impressions, all shallow markings, which indicated the slugs were fired from the same weapon.
The prosecution was halted in further exploration of the two guns submitted for testing to determine if either was the weapon used, when defense attorney Bob Citronberg called a side bar.
The analysis of the Cunningham Road evidence was less revealing, as shotguns were used in both murders. While examination of the two live rounds, recovered from outside the trailer, as well as yellow wadding, (plastic or cardboard sleeve which protects the shot pellets) and pellets revealed Federal Brand 20, gauge bird shot, a determination of what sort of shot gun used to fire the rounds was not possible. Shot gun cartridges, when shot through a barrel, do not yield any distinctive rifling as in rifles, pistols and revolvers.
Flater was able to determine that the shot pellets in the cartridges used to kill Agan and Fortenberry contained #4 pellets, but that # 6 and #8 shot pellets were in tact in the live rounds found outside the trailer. All the rounds were 20 Gauge, as indicated by Federal’s color coding system of the wadding used in the manufacturing process. Yellow wadding is always used for 20 Gauge only.
Co-defendant Dana Crider took the stand next, and as have many other witnesses, corroborated early testimony about various relationships between members of the Criminal Conspiracy, and linked approximate dates to various incidences. Specifically, Crider spent a good deal of time with Timothy Stroup, and even moved with Stroup to Florida with her three children and her father, when Daniel Villenas-Reyes instructed Stroup to go. She detailed comings and goings between St. Petersburg, Florida, and Cedartown by Daniel Villenas-Reyes, his wife Maricella Martinez, Erika Shelly, Amanda Sorrells , Tracy Holtzclaw, someone named Scotty, and several other Hispanic males.
The final witness for the morning was Sgt. Steven Molock, of the Cedartown police Department. Sgt. Molock testified about his arrival at the scene of the fire at 7th Street in in September, 2003, and observing duct tape on the ankles of the victim lying in the front yard, whose flaming clothes firefighters were still extinguishing. He realized that it was a crime scene, and secured the scene, prohibiting any but necessary firefighters from entering the house. He called the GBI office in Calhoun, and requested a Crime Scene Team, as well.
After the GBI Crime Scene Team left, left, he then examined the entire scene again, more thoroughly and recovered evidence as to the identities of several individuals living at 7th Street. Business cards for a house cleaning service were found, belonging to a non-victim resident, Felipe Corona Ramero, as well as a Federal Voting ID Card from Mexico, for the victim, Arturo Ventura Torrez. Torrez was the shot gun/burn victim who survived for two months in the Grady Hospital Burn Unit, in Atlanta.
Testimony will resume at 1;15 pm.
Tuesday Evening, February 12, 2008
Defense attorneys completed their cross examination of Maricella Martinez, co-defendant and wife of murder defendant Daniel Villenas-Reyes, this afternoon, before the government called two GBI Crime Lab Forensic Chemists on the stand.
Emily Bright, a graduate of Berry College prior to her Masters work in Forensic Sciences at the University of Alabama, took the stand to identify several bags of meth and cocaine seized in March, April and May of 2000. Ms. Bright described the tests used to verify the evidence as a particular drug. All drugs have to be tested by two different means before verifying. On the meth samples, she used GCMS, (Gas Chromatography Mass Spectrometer), as well as HPLC, (High Performance Liquid Chromatography).
On the cocaine she used the GCMS and TLC, (Thin Layer Chromatography).
Both Ms. Bright and the next GBI Forensic Scientist, Matthew Simon, described the stringent, daily calibration and testing measures the GBI crime lab performs on all of their testing units, to ensure accuracy of testing. Mr. Simon even told the court that in between every single sample testing, they run blanks through the machines, to be sure there is never left over residue or false readings to corrupt the next test.
Mathew Simon, a Fire Debris Analysis Specialist testified about the testing he conducted on several samples taken from the 7th Street, Cedartown fire/murders. Simon tested for the presence of ignitable liquid on several containers, including clothing taken from the unidentified female victim, the floor boards removed from the room where the fire was started, and cloth material of some kind taken from the male victim.
Simon explained that they take the various sample cans, and hang a charcoal strip in each, and then seal the can. Each can containing a sample is then heated in an oven to 70 degrees Celsius, or approximately 160-170 degrees Fahrenheit. Any gas present will evaporate in the container, and be absorbed by the charcoal strip, which is then removed and placed in a vial. A small amount of ether is then added to each vial, and tested with a gas chromatography unit. The results are then compared against known standards, for identification.
Simon explained that even when there has been an ignitable liquid used to start a fire, that water used to fight the fire can wash away the liquid, or heat from the fire can cause total evaporation of the liquid accelerant. But Simon was able to find the presence of a medium weight petroleum distillate on the cloth retrieved from the female victim. Instances of medium weight petroleum distillates include paint thinner, mineral spirits, dry cleaning fluids, paint thinner, and charcoal lighter fluid.
Testimony will resume at 9:30am Wednesday morning.
Tuesday Morning, February12, 2008
After Steve Brown’s cross examination was completed this morning, ATF Special Agent Stephen Kosch took the stand, identifying several weapons seized on or about March 24, 2003. Kosch is a firearms expert and instructor, who coordinates agent training for all of Georgia. He explained the standard phases of firearms inspections when done for a case, including a cursory examination for obvious, manufacturing markings, and secondary examination for less obvious, but still intentional markings by a manufacturer, leading to the third phase of consultation with industry research sources to identify the maker of a weapon.
Kosch’s final step is a to write a detailed report for what ever agency has requested examination/identification of a particular weapon.
During his testimony, Kosch told the court that there are in fact some 200 licensed weapons manufacturers in the State of Georgia, and approximately 60 licensed ammunition manufacturers in the state. Kosch corrected defense attorney Matt Dodge’s notion that there was a national database of all registered firearms. There is not, and according to Kosch, all registration of firearms is kept at the local FFL level.
Kosch also dispelled a myth I assumed, about all guns being traceable by a unique serial number. He explained that prior to the 1968 Gun Control Act, gun manufacturers were not required to assign a unique serial number, and in fact, did not have to assign any serial number. Some manufacturers would use duplicate serial numbers, and many small gauge rifles, like a 22 caliber, and shot guns often had no serial numbers at all.
Now, all guns will have a unique serial number, which is required to be engraved at a depth of 3/1000 of an inch in to the steel, which requires a serious grinding method to remove.
Next on the stand was Dr. Walter Lee Ingram, the Medical Director of the Grady Hospital Burn Unit. Dr. Ingram was the attending physician for Arturo Ventura, who was shot in the skull, and burned at the house on 7th Street in Cedartown, in September of 2003. Dr. Ingram described the burns over 50% of Ventura’s body as being 4th degree burns, where the burns reach deep into the muscle tissue, killing the tissue.
Ingram told the court that they removed as much of the dead tissues as they could, and tried to get the wounds to heal with skin grafts, but that ultimately, Ventura died of organ failure. He said that there were times when Ventura was conscience enough to be graded at a Level 10 on the Glasgow chart, explaining that a fully awake, walking, talking individual is a Level 15, and someone eminently about to die would be a Level 3.
The rest of the morning was spent on the testimony of Maricella Martinez, who was married to Daniel Villenas-Reyes. Martinez testified via an interpreter, and was able to link Timothy Stroup, Josh Smith, Marco Antonio Cordero, Edgar Bautista Beccera and Ozvaldo Andrade, Rex Wilson, Glenn Glaze, as well as Stephanie Holtzclaw, Amanda Sorrells, Leona Minter, Christy, (Corn?) and others to the drug business which she helped Villenas-Reyes with.
Martinez detailed her bookkeeping and drug delivery, order taking and money collection on behalf of her husband. She also was able to speak with some detail about the meeting had at the Carterville restaurant shortly after the shooting of Jesse Vargas. She told the court that her husband, Villenas-Reyes, Andrade and Beccera, talked about Jesse Vargas. “I heard them say they really screwed that dude”.
Martinez also told the court about how “Oz”, as she referred to Ozvaldo Andrade, and Villenas-Reyes and Beccera had a discussion about how Villenas-Reyes would take over and would “Be in charge” now that Oz had to leave and go back to Mexico.
Testimony resumes at 1:15pm.
Monday Evening, February 11, 2008
Immigration & Customs Enforcement, (I.C.E.) Special Agent Tim Everhart took the stand this afternoon after lunch, testifying about the illegal status of several of defendants. Everhart testified that Marco Antonio Cordero had been deported twice from the California area, before coming to Georgia. Cordero was deported on March 8, 2000 and again on March 16, 2001.
Everhart also explained that at one time, Juan Duque had a valid application for legal residency, pending, but that it was ultimately denied subsequent to a criminal conviction. His brother Sammy Duque had been deported once in October of 2002.
Daniel Villenas-Reyes, the alleged shooter and arsonist in the 7th Street, Cedartown murders, was also deported twice before the murders, once on March 31, 2000, and again on May 6, 2003.
Agent Everhart had the opportunity to interview Villenas-Reyes in connection with the murders, and recognized him from his Alien file. According to Everhart, during the interview Villenas-Reyes said that he possibly recognized one of the murder victims, but that he had never been to the house on 7th Street. When Agent Everhart informed him that they had DNA from the scene, Villenas-Reyes changed his story, telling authorities that one time he had been walking by the house, had cut his foot, and that his blood would possibly be found at the scene as a result.
Readers may remember that several government witnesses, from Timothy Stroup to Erika Shelly and Amanda Sorrells, have all testified about the time in September of 2003, when Villenas-Reyes had an injured foot. His stories to the various witnesses ranged from his having kicked a fan, causing the injury, to his having been stabbed by a girl friend.
This morning, State Fire Marshall James Maddux testified about having found a large amount of blood near the back kitchen door of the home that was burned, and that they had found a knife in the room where the murders occurred and where the fire had been set.
Following Agent Everhart on the stand was Tabitha Agan, related by marriage to the Cunningham Road murder victim, T.J. Agan. Agan told a familiar story, repeated numerous times throughout the last five weeks, of being a driver for one of the defendants, in this case Villenas-Reyes, on various drug deals, selling, dropping off or collecting. She, like most of the witnesses, was addicted to meth, and was kept well supplied for her errands.
When she first met Villenas-Reyes, he had the injury to his foot, which she said looked more like a bullet hole to her.
Christy Corn, sister to Ray Corn, one of the government’s earlier witnesses, took the stand next, and reiterated much of the testimony of both her brother and Erika Shelly, about the period of time when Marco Cordero escaped from the Polk County jail, and about the time during which she lived with Erika Shelly, Marie Rodgers and a woman named Paige.
Defendant Steven Brown was the final witness for the afternoon, testifying about many of the same elements told by other witnesses. Brown was affiliated with Daniel Villenas-Reyes through Misty McCray, and met Marco Antonio Cordero through them. He even collected monies on behalf of Cordero, while Cordero was in jail, immediately prior to his escape, and mentioned that several people were collecting money for Cordero, who planned to buy his way out of jail.
Cross examination of Steven Brown will resume tomorrow morning at 9:30am.
Monday Morning, February 11, 2008 Gruesome Testimony and Evidence
The fifth week of this trial began with testimony by experts witnesses, and pictures of murder victims whose bodies were charred. So gruesome were some of the pictures, that before the jury was brought, members of the defense team asked that some photos only be shown in black and white, and others not be shown at all to the jury. After looking at the pictures, Judge Harold Murphy determined the pictures were indeed to gruesome and therefore prejudicial to be shown, although he allowed those particular pictures to be entered in to the record.
The government’ first witness this morning was Dr. Marcus Kopenen, Deputy Chief Medical Examiner for the Georgia Bureau of Investigations. Koponen testified about elements of the two autopsies he performed on the Unidentified female from the 7th Street, Cedartown house, as wells as on Mr. Caesar Vasquez, also a victim in that murder.
Both victims had been shot prior to the fire being ignited, as evidenced by the lack of Carbon Monoxide in the victims’ blood. The unidentified female had a plastic bag wrapped around her head, which had melted and adhered to her skin during the fire. This confirmed the testimony by Amanda Sorrels from last week. The female had been shot through the mouth, without damaging either lips, broke the two center teeth, pierced her tongue, lodging in the dense muscles of the neck. The pictures revealed the badly charred body, with her hands bound with duct tape, behind her back.
The male victim, Caesar Vasquez, was shot in the back of the head at the occipital pubis, traveling downward through the cerebellum and lodging in his brain stem. Like the female victim, Vasquez’ hands were bound behind his back with duct tape, and some small fragments of duct tape were found attached to his ankles.
But the story coming from Dr. William Oliver, the Northwest Georgia Medical Examiner for the GBI, who autopsied the third victim of the 7th Street murders, Arturo Ventura, was the hardest to take. Ventura survived the gunshot wound to his head, which did not fully penetrate the third layer of the skull, but which rendered him unconscious. It was Ventura’s burns, over 60% of his body that allowed him to languish for two months which ultimately killed him.
Dr. Oliver talked about the common bacterial overgrowth which takes over a severe burn victim’s body, without the protection of the skin. The patients ultimately dies from septic shock.
Testimony by James Edward Maddux, of the State Fire Marshall’s Arson/Fire Unit described the crime scene, and articulated the analysis of the cause of the fire, and the speed with which it spread due to the use of an accelerant.
Maddux also testified about finding a small shrine like area in the front living room, separate from where the fire was started, with candles still burning when he arrived at the scene.
Mike Garner of Cedartown’s Goodyear Village, where the fire on 7th Street occurred, took the stand to tell the court about the September afternoon he was driving by in his truck, and heard someone screaming, “Help me, don’t let me die”.
According to Garner, he looked over and saw the smoke first, and jumped out of his truck, leaving it in the middle of the street, ran up on the front porch, at which time he saw the victim, whose clothes were actually still on fire with small flames. Garner put the flames out with his fingers, and ran off the porch when he saw three gentlemen standing across the street. One of them had a cordless land line phone, and when Garner asked if they had called 911, they responded that they had not. At that point, according to Garner, he grabbed the phone from the man, called 911. Garner testified that this gentleman then ran to the front porch and began talking to Ventura, who was still conscience. Garner said that it took only about three minutes for the Cedartown Fire Department to arrive on the scene, but that police were there first.
The final witness of the morning was Cedartown’s Assistant Fire Chief, Lee Wilkerson, who testified to securing the scene that afternoon.
Testimony will resume at 1:45pm