ST. CLOUD – The former girlfriend of murder defendant Brian G. Fitch said in court Friday that on the night before Mendota Heights police officer Scott Patrick was killed, Fitch warned her in an emotional tirade that he would shoot a police officer if he was ever pulled over.
Fitch, 40, is accused of killing Patrick July 30 during a routine traffic stop before he was captured after a shootout with St. Paul police.
The incriminating testimony mirrored that of an unnamed witness who testified before a grand jury last fall and later became one of two people that Fitch allegedly tried to have killed as he sat in prison awaiting trial. That scheme unraveled when another inmate last month showed authorities a map to the witness’ home that Fitch had allegedly drawn so that someone could carry out his threat.
Thirteen witnesses in all were called Friday in the second day of testimony in Fitch’s trial, which is expected to last at least two weeks. A possible alibi for Fitch was among the day’s highlights, as was an emerging portrait of Fitch’s life last summer.
If convicted on all charges related to Patrick’s death, Fitch faces life in prison without parole.
The former girlfriend, Taya Moran, 29, said she met Fitch last spring and became intimate with him right away. Then in July, after they had an argument, Fitch allegedly threatened to break into her Oakdale apartment and steal a television. Alarmed, she called the Oakdale Police Department and gave them Fitch’s name and phone number. The police called him, and when Fitch next saw Moran he “lectured” her for several hours, she said.
Moran said he told her “I ruined him” and “They forgot about me and now they’re going to remember me.” Recounting his words, she said: “If I get pulled over, I’m going to shoot a cop.”
Moran also testified that Fitch had two handguns when they were dating, one with a laser sight similar to the gun that was used to kill Patrick.
Moran met Fitch when a friend introduced them, saying they would get along and “Brian was a good source of meth,” said defense attorney Lauri Traub, asking Moran if that wasn’t true.
Moran said that wasn’t exactly how it happened, but acknowledged that she was using meth.
Traub also asked Moran about a second alleged confession from Fitch, one that came to light just recently, causing a delay in the trial’s opening. According to Moran, an imprisoned friend of hers told her last week that on the day of the shooting, Fitch told him he “had no choice” but to shoot Patrick because Fitch had drugs in his car when he was pulled over.
Using phone transcripts of Moran’s conversations with the prisoner, Traub revealed that the prisoner, facing a 262-month federal sentence, told Moran she should refuse to testify unless prosecutors cut him a deal, Traub said.
Their conversations were recorded by the prison phone system, and a transcript was turned over to prosecutors and Fitch’s defense.
The timeline used to place Fitch at the crime scene fell under scrutiny Friday when former St. Paul Hotel employee Karen King, 57, told investigators that she thought Fitch was at her house shortly after she returned to her West St. Paul home from work on July 30 at 12:10 p.m. or 12:15 p.m. Officer Patrick was shot about 12:20 p.m. that day, according to the prosecution.
Her home is about 1.6 miles from the spot where Patrick was shot. Several people testified that they saw the Grand Am traveling at speeds of up to 70 miles per hour along that route the day Patrick was shot.
King worked that day until 11:52 a.m., hotel records show, and video surveillance records show her leaving the building at 12:01 p.m. or 12:03 p.m. that day, a hotel security guard testified.
The drive from the downtown St. Paul hotel to her West St. Paul home takes five to 10 minutes, she and her son, Jesse Charles, testified. King said it’s even possible Fitch was in her house when she arrived home and that she didn’t notice him. They spoke a few minutes after she got home, she told Traub.
There was more uncertainty about descriptions of the suspect when Sgt. Jake Peterson of the St. Paul Police Department testified that two eyewitnesses to Patrick’s shooting were unable to pick Fitch out of photo lineups.
Fitch’s drug-dealer lifestyle was highlighted throughout testimony Friday. Moran said Fitch had “too many” phones, and at least two cars that she knew about. Fitch sometimes stayed with her in Oakdale, and otherwise stayed at his place in Mendota Heights. Two of the people who testified Friday said they bought meth from Fitch. One of them, a longtime friend of Fitch’s, said she was on a 14-day meth bender when police showed up on July 30 looking for Fitch.
Fitch parked his green Grand Am in King’s back yard when he stopped there July 30; he also asked to borrow King’s blue Hyundai Veracruz SUV. She was reluctant, but agreed after Fitch offered to pay $800 of back payments on the vehicle.
The green Grand Am was found five hours after the shooting in the back yard of the Robert Street home, according to testimony from St. Paul police officer Chou Yang. He said he spotted the car partly covered by a blue tarp.
The night before Patrick’s killing, Fitch spent the night at the Mendota Heights home of Laurie Griffin Pocock and John Lynch Jr., both of them testified Friday. He left the house that morning wearing a Batman T-shirt and a white baseball cap, said Pocock. “He asked what shirt he should wear. I said Batman,” she said, adding that she told Fitch to wear the black shirt because “It’s going to be a black day.”
The police arrived one hour to 90 minutes later, asking her questions about Fitch.
By then, Patrick was dead.