Chesterton Tribune



Jurors hear closing arguments

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The Prosecution and Defense presented closing arguments in the Christopher Dillard murder trial Wednesday.

Nicole Gland was killed behind the former Upper Deck Lounge, 139 S. Calumet Road, Chesterton, in the early hours of April 19, 2017 after she closed the bar. Gland had been a bartender there, and Dillard a bouncer. The results of a forensic autopsy later showed Gland had been stabbed more than 20 times in the head, face, and neck and had defensive wounds to her arms and hands. Dillard has pled not guilty to the crime. Yesterday, Wednesday, was the last day of his trial.

Chief Deputy Prosecutor Armando Salinas began his closing statement by playing a 911 callÑthe call Pam Govert made on April 19 to report that her sister, and Dillard’s then-girlfriend, Beverly Galle needed to speak with police about the incident at the Upper Deck Lounge.

“They knew the Defendant’s life was spiraling out of control at the time,” Salinas said. “They were concerned. The two witnesses who knew the Defendant better than anyone else--they were the first who wanted to get law enforcement involved.”

Salinas recapped the evidence presented from both the initial investigation led by Chesterton Police and an independent look by a task force formed when new Porter County Prosecutor Gary German took office in January 2019. “In their investigation,” Salinas said, the task force “came to the same conclusion: the Defendant was responsible for the murder of Nicole Gland.”

Salinas said witness testimony proves so well that Dillard had sexual desires for Gland that the Defense was worried enough to raise the issue of Dillard’s sexual performance problems as a result. He noted that the jurors, if they wish to read it, have in evidence a sexually explicit letter Dillard wrote to Galle while he was incarcerated in November 2017. “The Defendant’s sexual desires? They’re well intact,” Salinas said.

Salinas urged the jury to re-watch Dillard’s initial interview with CPD Chief Dave Cincoski for what he termed “a lot of things that raise an eyebrow.”

Dillard had been adamant that 11:30 p.m. April 18, 2017 was the last time he was at Upper Deck before Gland was killed, but his steadfastness is suspect, according to Salinas. “He was partying hard. He doesn’t remember any other time in his statement to Chesterton Police, but he knows 11:30,” Salinas said.

In the statement, Dillard tries to distance himself from Upper Deck and Gland, and acknowledges that he knows he is a suspect, but that it’s BS and he “feels bad,” according to Salinas. “Why does he feel bad? He felt bad because he killed Nicole Gland in cold blood. Because he wanted sex from Nicole Gland, and she refused. Because he was high, binging on drugs and alcohol,” Salinas said.

In the Defense’s closing statement, Dillard’s attorney Russell W. Brown began by thanking the jury for their service as a “safety net” for the public: “It is only you that prevents the government from locking up any of usÑfrom taking away our liberty.”

Then, he urged he jury to think about the evidence they don’t have, what it could have indicated, and why they don’t have it.

Brown said the jury heard a lot about how DNA evidence and criminal investigations aren’t really as they’re depicted on TV. “But didn’t you start to feel like you were starring in a new Netflix documentary as the evidence, or lack of, and the incompetence started to come out? I know I did,” he said.

Brown’s laundry list of missing evidence includes surveillance footage from areas of interest that was either not collected or not collected from the right timeframe, cell phone records indicating where Gland’s then-boyfriend Santos Ortiz was the night of the murder, an alleged drop of blood found outside Gland’s vehicle at the scene, and a knife that could have been the murder weapon that was found near the scene months after the fact, but never collected.

“These mistakes that have been made are not minor mistakes. These mistakes have completely changed the dynamic of this case,” Brown asserted.

Brown then argued that the Prosecution’s “star witnesses,” Dillard’s former cell mates Nick Stone and Steven Myers, aren’t credible. Brown asserted Myers, a current inmate, fabricated his testimony in hopes of legal help, and Stone, who has since been released, saw the case all over the news before meeting Dillard.

Brown further said it’s convenient and an easy story to say that a middle-aged man was motivated to kill a beautiful young woman because she rejected him.

Galle, one of only two witnesses for the Defense, provides an explanation for why Dillard’s scent was picked up by a Police K9 at the Pleasant Valley Trailer park and storage area where Gland’s cell phone last pinged around 3:30 a.m. April 19, Brown said. Galle testified earlier yesterday that two men who worked at a Wendy’s with her and Dillard in 2017 lived there. Brown added that the Police K9 could have picked up a scent from Dillard being there weeks or even a month before.

No blood was found in Dillard’s truck, Brown noted, and Brown said that would be impossible if Dillard had killed Gland. Brown also asserted that Dillard’s DNA found on Gland could have been transferred from an innocent hug or touch on her arm the night before or from surfaces that they both came into contact with at the bar.

The investigation was “blinders on” focused at Dillard from the outset, Brown said, and if it hadn’t been, perhaps Ortiz would be sitting at the Defense table.

On rebuttal, Deputy Prosecutor Mary Ryan said the jury heard a lot about CPD from the Defense. “They have been spit out and chewed up over the course of this trial,” she said, but all of that ignores the fact that the special task force came to the same conclusion as CPD. “Did you hear an argument that [lead investigator, Porter County Sheriff’s Police Captain Jeff] Biggs and the task force didn’t get it right? No,” Ryan said.

Ryan also took aim at Galle, noting that Galle has been taking four to six phone calls from Dillard each day recently and wearing a ring to the proceedings, though she is not married, as a show of solidarity with Dillard. “Beverly Galle has a built in motive not to tell you the truth. She’s in love with the man,” Ryan said.

Further, Ryan showed the jury a video from the night Gland was killed where Gland is seen tightly hugging a female friend, though no unknown female DNA was found on her body. If a full body contact hug like that one doesn’t leave transfer DNA, then the contact Dillard had with Gland in order to leave his DNA on her right shoulder and thigh was not casual, Ryan said, “It was violent.”

The reason Dillard could have gotten back in his truck without leaving blood, according to Ryan? The autopsy showed that Gland’s injuries caused more internal than external bleeding.

Ryan noted that testimony from Myers and Stone, the former cell mates of Dillard’s who say he confessed to the crime, is backed up by a third witness, Tucker Sawyer, and Dillard’s own words. Sawyer testified Dillard said the month before the murder that he had a crush on Gland. Stone and Myers have both said Dillard said he got angry when Gland refused his sexual advances.

Stone said Dillard claimed to have “blacked out,” which Ryan noted is a phrase the jury heard Dillard use in recorded jail phone calls to Galle. She also notes that both Galle and Myers testified Dillard drank Fireball Whiskey. Ryan asked, “How would he know Dillard’s drink of choice if they hadn’t communicated?”

The narrative of Gland rejecting Dillard is three different people from three different time frames telling a consistent story, Ryan said. “This was about sex.”

The jury has heard all sorts of testimony where Dillard “sings the blues,” exaggerating about being a victim in one scenario or another--saying he was fired, saying the drugs had a hold of him, saying the bartenders betrayed him, according to Ryan.

Ryan postulated that Dillard makes himself out to be a victim and probably felt the bartenders owed him. She reasserted the case was undeniably about sex, and Gland dared to say no. “That’s not a sin, to say no,” Ryan said.


Posted 11/7/2019




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