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Judge rejects request for dismissal in Upper Deck murder case

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By LILY REX

Porter Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Clymer denied a motion to dismiss charges against Christopher Dillard, who stands accused of the 2017 murder of Upper Deck Lounge bartender Nicole Gland, at a hearing yesterday.

After approximately three hours of arguments and conflicting witness testimony, Clymer concluded that the Defense failed to meet its burden of proof after it contended that Dillard’s constitutional rights to due process were violated because law enforcement failed to collect and preserve evidence that had the potential to exonerate him.

Clymer ruled that a knife found in the area behind the former Upper Deck Lounge approximately five months after the murder was potentially useful in the case, but the Defense failed to prove that the State acted in bad faith by not preserving the knife as evidence. Clymer also said a jury should decide on the conflicting accounts surrounding discovery of the knife.

The Defense filed the motion to dismiss on Sept. 27, in which Dillard’s Attorney Russell W. Brown Jr., stated Chesterton Police Detective Nicholas Brown responded to a report of a knife being found behind the Upper Deck Lounge, photographed the knife, and took it into custody. The motion goes on to say that the knife was then lost or destroyed before it could be examined, which is a violation of Dillard’s rights to due process because the State is obligated to preserve evidence with exculpatory potential.

Brown testified he responded to a report of a knife found in that area on Sept. 13, 2017, but that he did not recall photographing it and did not take possession of the knife because it was obviously not the type of knife used in Gland’s murder. Brown testified the knife appeared to have grease on its blade and to have fallen from the rear deck of the former Octave Grill restaurant, where a propane grill was kept at the time.

Marshall Kennoy testified he discovered the knife in question under a downspout while mowing grass behind his apartment in the 100-block of S. Calumet Road. Both Detective Brown and Kennoy testified the knife was a serrated steak knife. Kennoy estimated it had a seven- or eight-inch blade.

“The knife did not have any apparent evidentiary value” in the case of Gland’s murder because it wasn’t the right kind of knife, according to Deputy Prosecutor Mary Ryan. “That’s not the knife that inflicted her injuries,” Ryan said.

Gland’s 24 stab wounds to the head, neck, and torso were inflicted with a straight-bladed kitchen knife with a seven- or eight-inch blade, according to the results of a forensic autopsy.

Ryan also implied that the knife came to rest where Kennoy found it after the murder because at least three searches of the area by Chesterton, Porter, and Northwest Indiana Major Crimes Task Force officers turned up no weapons in the week after Gland’s body was found.

Conflicting Testimony

The Defense’s argument relied heavily on the testimony of a third witness, Cole Feitshans, who testified that he and Kennoy found the knife together. Yesterday, he described the knife as a straight-bladed “chef’s knife” with a seven- to eight-inch blade, though he has said it was an eight-to 10-inch blade in previous interviews.

Feitshans also testified that a CPD officer who he did not recognize (in full uniform, driving a fully-marked squad car) responded to the Sept. 13, 2017 call. Brown testified he was driving his unmarked black Ford Explorer and not in full uniform when he responded.

The Prosecution noted that dispatch records show Brown was contacted directly via his cell phone when the call came in, and the call was not broadcast to other available units.

Kennoy said Feitshans, his neighbor at the time, was not with him when he found the knife, but came outside after an officer was on scene.

Chief Deputy Prosecutor Armando Salinas asked Feitshans if he knows Detective Brown. Feitshans said he does due to past run-ins, including one where Brown arrested him. When asked, Feitshans testified that it’s fair to say he’s “not particularly” fond of Brown.

Looking Forward

In other business, Clymer confirmed that the results of a DNA test on a strand of hair found in Gland’s vehicle are available and have been shared among the Prosecution and Defense teams.

The Prosecution has requested that they be allowed to discuss certain suppressed material if Dillard opens the door to it while he’s on the stand. Clymer said he would decide that after a jury is selected, and Dillard will be notified of the decision before he decides whether or not to take the stand.

Clymer reported a list of potential jurors is ready. Jury selection begins Oct. 21, when potential jurors will be given a supplemental questionnaire to determine if they have prior knowledge of the case. If jury selection goes off without a hitch, opening arguments are likely to start either Oct. 22 or 23, according to Clymer.

 

Posted 10/11/2019

 
 
 
 

 

 

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