Murder trial turns bloody

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 12, 2010

VIDALIA — The murder of Mike Welch was a bloody mess, and much of the testimony at Michael Kelly Stevens’ murder trial Wednesday focused on blood.

More than a dozen bloodstained items — including the suspected murder weapon, a steak knife — were entered into evidence.

While District Attorney Brad Burget showed crime scene photographs, Concordia Parish Sheriff’s Office Investigator Philip Webber testified about the blood-saturated couch and large puddle of blood on the living room floor where Welch was found with his throat cut on Oct. 4, 2009.

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Another photo showed a bloodstain on the carpet under the couch.

“We rolled the couch over and (blood) had soaked through the couch,” Webber said.

“It indicated a lot of blood loss.”

Bloody clothes and shoes from what prosecutors allege was Stevens’ bedroom were entered into evidence, as well as a blanket that had soaked up blood on the couch.

But Defense Attorney Madaline Gibbs expressed skepticism about the evidence.

“Do you know to a scientific certainty that is blood on these items?” she asked.

“Do you know to a scientific certainty whose blood is on those items?”

Questioning if it was possible for the blood to belong to Stevens, or even if it was animal blood, Gibbs asked if the evidence had a purpose.

“Is it true that all of this that was collected is of little use because it is not known to a scientific certainty if it is blood?”

Webber replied that, while he did not test it — and at the time of the crime did not have the authority to have it tested — he would not say the evidence was of little use.

When CPSO Capt. Frankie Carroll took the stand and testified that the blood had not been DNA tested because the crime lab was backlogged by two years and Burget had ordered the tests stopped two weeks ago so the evidence could be brought to Concordia Parish for trial, Gibbs again questioned what conclusions could be drawn from the evidence.

“Not knowing to a scientific certainty it is blood, could you tell me whose blood it is?” she said.

Carroll responded that he did not know whose blood it is but that he was certain it was blood.

“When you have been to as many crime scenes as I have, you know the smell of blood, you know the sight of blood, you know what it is,” he said.

The crime lab had DNA samples from both the victim and the defendant, but ran out of time before it could be tested, Carroll said.

In response to Gibbs’ questions to both Webber and Carroll, Burget made an appeal to the investigators’ rational faculties in regard to the bloodstained evidence and its lack of being tested to prove the substance on it was, in fact, blood.

“Do you believe the substance that comes out of your body when you cut yourself is blood?” he asked.

“Do you know with scientific certainty I am a human being? Do you have some common sense?

“Did you see a human body with a large gaping hole in its neck lying on top of that (evidence)?”

Likewise, Burget also asked what was the purpose of DNA testing.

“DNA testing is to prove who, not how, correct?” he said.

“We already knew who because we had a confession.”

Harris County, Texas, deputies Beau Beatty, Gilbert Bernal and J.C. Dalrymple also testified Wednesday.

Beatty told how he found Welch’s pickup truck illegally parked in a public park in Channelview, Texas, early Oct. 13.

After finding Stevens sleeping in the backseat, Beatty said the defendant gave him the name “Michael Kelly Jensen” when asked.

When a dispatcher alerted Beatty to the fact that the truck was possibly stolen and authorities were looking for a person of interest in a homicide investigation named Michael Kelly Stevens, he drew his duty weapon and told Stevens to get on his knees and place his hands behind his back, Beatty said.

Stevens instead stood there asking him what was happening, and Beatty said after commanding Stevens to get on his knees several times he reached for his Taser and warned Stevens he would tase him.

It was at that point Stevens ran from the scene and jumped into the nearby Houston Ship Channel, trying to swim away, Beatty said.

The officer said he put a spotlight on the suspect and watched him as he swam out into the channel and then toward some nearby barges.

Bernal testified that he responded to the call for backup after Stevens jumped into the channel, and that he found him treading water behind one of the barges.

Bernal said he threw Stevens a life ring, and others were able to pull him onto a tugboat before transferring him to another boat and sending him to land and ultimately processing at the county jail. Stevens was taken to the jail by Beatty.

Both Beatty and Bernal said Stevens appeared lucid and did not seem to be under the influence of alcohol or narcotics.

Dalrymple spoke about his role in processing the evidence in Welch’s truck after it was towed to a Harris County holding area.

CPSO Investigator Jack Fletcher also testified Wednesday about his role in the investigation.