Video statement shown to jury in murder trial

Published 12:02 am Friday, August 13, 2010

NATCHEZ — Michael Kelly Stevens sat Thursday and watched himself tell investigators the events that led up to the death of Michael Welch.

Stevens, in an hour-long videotaped statement filmed after his arrest Oct. 13, 2009, told investigators at first that he didn’t remember much of what happened in early October 2009.

“How it came about, how it happened, I can’t pinpoint it,” Stevens said in the statement.

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He also said early into questioning he had vague memories of the events.

“I remembered the next morning when I got (to Texas) I did something wrong,” Stevens told investigators.

But as the conversation with investigators from the Vidalia Police Department and Concordia Parish Sheriff’s Office continued, Stevens began recalling details and emotions.

The video statement was shown during testimony given by Concordia Parish Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigator David Hedrick. Hedrick, along with Vidalia Police Department Investigator Randy Stockman and CPSO Investigator Jack Fletcher, took part in the questioning.

Stevens said in the statement he asked Welch to borrow his truck to drive to Texas to visit his son. When Welch refused, Stevens said in the statement he left the room grabbed some clothes and returned to the living area.

At one point early in the statement, Stevens said he had no memory of how Welch was killed, but later Stevens told investigators on tape he “slashed” at Welch with a knife used for eating after Welch refused to allow him to use the truck.

“Blood squirted all over me,” the video shows Stevens saying. “I just threw the knife down.”

Stevens said on tape after cutting Welch in the neck he left the house, but he said he believed Welch was still alive when he left.

“(He was) on the floor, looking at me when I walked out the door,” Stevens said while being questioned.

Stevens then said he left the house in Welch’s truck.

Stevens said in the statement, that was taped in Harris County, Texas, Welch was “a cool dude” that allowed Stevens to live with him and that he never meant to kill him.

In the statement, Stevens also said he stole money out of Welch’s wallet and used at least $100 of it to purchase crack. Stevens also said he sold items from the truck and used the money to purchase alcohol.

Stevens said, in the statement, prior to that attack he had been drinking and taking pills given to him by Welch.

In the statement, Stevens indicated he had been scratched or cut on the head by Welch.

Following the viewing of the full statement, Concordia Parish District Attorney Brad Burget asked Hedrick if he saw any scabbing or scarring from the previously mentioned incident.

Hedrick, who looked for the wounds on the video, said he was not able to find any evidence of cuts or scratches on Stevens’ head.

Stevens’ defense attorney Madaline Gibbs asked Hedrick if people under the influence of drugs or alcohol routinely have fuzzy or foggy memories of acts committed while under the influence.

Hedrick said he could not speak to how Stevens’ would react under the influence.

“Me, not being him, I can’t say,” Hedrick said.

Stevens said he only remembers “slashing” Welch once, but forensic pathologist Dr. Karen Ross said the cause of death was “multiple sharp force injuries of the neck.”

Ross, who is also an assistant coroner in Jefferson Parish, completed the autopsy on Welch’s body at the Jeffesron Parish Forensic Center in Harvey, La.

She testified that she has completed more than 3,000 autopsies in her career in forensic pathology.

She said during the autopsy she identified an approximately 9-inch long gash in Welch’s throat that, at its deepest point, was two-and-three-quarter inches deep.

She reported in her autopsy report and also testified she ruled the manner of Welch’s death homicide after the autopsy performed on Oct. 6, 2009.

She said the cut was likely actually four to eight separate wounds close together.

The wound transected both the internal carotid artery and the jugular vein, Ross reported in her autopsy findings.

Toxicology tests were also performed on stomach contents and decomposition fluid in Welch’s body.

Ross said the only substances found were ones caused by decomposition and caffeine.

Gibbs asked Ross if she was surprised by the absence of prescription drugs in the body of Welch, a man battling illness.

Ross said the prescriptions were not present because they had not been taken for several days.

Ross also testified that a dried, deep red substance on a knife thought to be the murder weapon was blood.

Thursday the jury also heard testimony from Stockman, the first investigator to be called to the murder scene on Oct. 4, 2009.

Stockman told Burget after arriving at the crime scene at 804 Myrtle St, he began taking pictures to document the scene.

Stockman said after surveying the scene in the living area, where Welch’s body was found, he began surveying other rooms in the house.

Stockman said he located bloody clothes in a bedroom of the house and upon further inspection of the room located a Bible and paycheck stub that both had Stevens’ name on them.

“He was a person of extreme interest at that point,” Stockman said.

In the days following the discovery of Welch’s body, Stockman said he and other investigators began interviewing people close to Welch and Stevens attempting to piece together Welch’s final days of life and also locate Stevens.

Burget also called witnesses to testify to Welch’s deteriorating health.

Peggy Williams, a nurse’s aide with Louisiana Homecare, and Jan Bryant, a former registered nurse with Louisiana Homecare, both testified that Welch was unstable on his feet and weak.

Williams said as part of her duties as a nurse’s aide she would assist Welch with personal hygiene tasks like bathing and grooming of hair and facial hair.

Williams said she originally cared for Welch twice a week but in the few months before Welch’s death her visits had been cut back to once a week.

On her last visit, Williams testified that a man, who she later identified as Stevens was at the house.

Bryant said part of her duties as Welch’s homecare nurse were to make sure his medicines were ordered and prepared for him.

During her testimony she said Welch was taking a number of medicines including ones for blood pressure, pain and stomach problems.

Burget showed Bryant bottles for nine different medications found at Welch’s house. They included a multi-vitamin, blood thinner, an antibiotic, blood pressure medication, aspirin, medication for stomach pain and nausea, a muscle relaxer and Oxycotin.

Bryant said while Welch’s health had improved, he was still unsteady when walking and standing and was weak because of multiple health problems.

The trial, which began with jury selection Monday and testimony Tuesday, will continue today.