Talk of cellphone records, bullet trajectories and crime scenes took over at the trial of murder defendant Brian G. Fitch on Tuesday as the state showed evidence it gathered in the days after police cornered Fitch in a bloody St. Paul shootout.
The defense team for Fitch, who stands accused of killing Mendota Heights police officer Scott Patrick on July 30th, responded with a flurry of objections over the cellphone records and the experts called to explain them, most of which were overruled by Dakota County Judge Mary Theisen.
Eleven witnesses testified Tuesday, and the prosecution said they expect to wrap up their case by Thursday morning at the latest. Theisen told jurors that they may get the case as early as Friday, and that they should expect to be sequestered during their deliberations.
• An officer said that nearly $3,000 in cash, a set of brass knuckles and a hand-drawn map were found in Fitch’s pants pockets after he was captured. A photograph of the map was shown in the courtroom, and it appeared to show directions from the Twin Cities to Luck, Wis. Two men who were with Fitch in the moments before he was captured testified Monday that he was headed to a cabin in Luck. Fitch told one of the men, Jacob Hayes, that he would kill Hayes’s family if Hayes told anyone where he was going. He also told him to tell others that he was going to Canada.
• Prosecutors said analysis of a phone seized after the shooting from Fitch’s friend Kelly “Eastside” Hardy shows that it was used to search for news about the shooting in the hours after Patrick’s death. Hardy said she and Fitch were driving around the Twin Cities together that afternoon.
The bulk of the day’s testimony centered around phone records, with prosecutors using Sprint cellphone tower records to place Fitch at the Mendota Heights home of his friends Laurie Pocock and John Lynch Jr. in the hours before the Mendota Heights police officer was killed.
Patrick was shot and killed at 12:20 p.m. on July 30 while making a routine traffic stop. Pocock and Lynch, who live about 5 miles south of the crime scene, said Fitch stayed with them the night of July 29.
A Sprint official testified that their records showed that a phone seized from Fitch on July 30 made or received about 25 calls or texts that morning. The official, Norman Ray Clark III, said most of the calls pinged off a tower in Eagan.
State Bureau of Criminal Apprehension agent William O’Donnell said he converted the Sprint data into an address, saying most of the calls were made from 2472 Pond Circle Av. E., Mendota Heights. That’s the block where Pocock and Lynch live.
Several officers also testified about their crime scene investigations of Patrick’s killing and of the St. Paul shootout leading to Fitch’s capture. Shell casings and bullets from both scenes were bagged and analyzed, along with two guns found with Fitch: a 9-millimeter Smith & Wesson “M and P” and a palm-sized, pearl-handled derringer with a 4-inch barrel.
St. Paul police officer Jamie Sipes said the blue Hyundai Veracruz that Fitch was driving when he was captured by police was strewn with broken glass, bloodstains and shell casings when he began his investigation.
Sipes said he also found a bullet hole in the Hyundai’s passenger seat headrest that could only have come from someone sitting in the driver’s seat. Burn marks on the headrest around the bullet hole indicated that the gun was “inches” away when it was fired, he said.
The defense challenged the state’s case throughout the day, noting that some evidence needed additional chain-of-custody information before it could be entered and that a probation officer for Washington County who was called to testify about a probation violation Fitch made in 2014 was not the same person who had met with Fitch last year to explain the terms of his probation.
Defense attorney Lauri Traub on Tuesday also pressed several police officers over the concept of muzzle flashes, which came up in testimony earlier in the trial.
Asking if it was possible to determine the direction of a bullet by a muzzle flash, Traub seemed to be responding to testimony from St. Paul police officers who testified Monday that they saw two muzzle flashes coming from Fitch’s gun and thought he was firing at them.
“If you see a muzzle flash, it doesn’t mean you’re being shot at,” she asked St. Paul police officer Ron Himes on Tuesday.
Himes, at least the third officer she had asked, agreed.