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Prosecution: Dillard confessed to cell mate and in recorded calls

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By LILY REX

Christopher Dillard confessed to killing Nicole Gland in conversation with a former cell mate and in phone calls recorded at the Porter County Jail, according to Chief Deputy Prosecutor Armando Salinas.

This is one element of evidence the jury will hear in the Prosecution’s case against Dillard as his murder trial proceeds, Salinas said yesterday in opening arguments.

Dillard, 53, has pled not guilty to the murder of Gland, 23. Gland and Dillard both worked at the former Upper Deck Lounge at 139 S. Calumet Road in Chesterton, Gland as a bartender, Dillard as a bouncer. Dillard has been held in Porter County Jail since his arrest by Chesterton Police on April 20, 2017.

The day before, Gland’s body was found directly behind the office of the Chesterton Tribune when a Tribune employee arriving to work noticed Gland’s SUV resting against a dumpster. A forensic autopsy later showed she had been stabbed 24 times in the head, neck, and torso and suffered defensive wounds to her hands and forearms.

Salinas said the jury will hear, in Dillard’s own words, that the night Gland was killed, “Everything was a haze,” “It was a blackout,” and “It was the drugs.” The jury will also hear testimony that Dillard told a former cell mate that he killed Gland after she refused to perform sexual favors in exchange for cocaine.

In the coming days, Salinas said witness testimony will speak to Dillard’s state of mind in the hours leading up to and the day following the crime. Surveillance footage, he said, in conjunction with testimony, will put Dillard in downtown Chesterton the night of the murder and indicate that Dillard spoke to Gland just hours before she was killed.

The Prosecution will call several civilians and first responders, a pathologist, a forensic anthropologist, and an employee of the Indiana State Police lab to the stand, and will present evidence that Dillard’s DNA was found on Gland’s body and that a knife thought to be in Dillard’s possession at the time of the murder is consistent with the type of weapon used against Gland.

The owner of the former Upper Deck and Dillard’s girlfriend are slated to testify to Dillard’s erratic behavior in the days and hours leading up to the murder, which led the owner to tell Dillard to stay away from the bar the night Gland was killed. Dillard showed up anyway, according to Salinas, and surveillance footage shows he interacted with Gland.

Additional witnesses will testify that Dillard spoke of a sexual desire toward Gland prior to the murder; that he visited Danny O’s the night of the murder, where he asked a bartender how much money she made and if she tended to walk out to her car alone; and that he, on the night of the murder, told a patron at Flannery’s Tavern that “the bartenders had ratted him out and were going to get theirs,” Salinas said.

Dillard’s defense attorney, Russell W. Brown Jr., focused his opening statement on what the jury won’t hear during the trial. “At no time during this trial are you going to hear direct evidence that Mr. Dillard committed this offense,” Brown said.

Brown said the Prosecution will try to get the jury to “connect the dots” to find Dillard guilty, but “those dots are few and far between.”

Witness testimony and surveillance footage, according to Brown, will indicate that Dillard was wearing the same clothes the day after the murder as he was when he visited the Upper Deck Lounge, Danny O’s, and Flannery’s the night before--save a blue flannel shirt--and that his clothes were not bloody. Brown added that Gland’s blood was not found in the truck Dillard purportedly drove the night of the murder, and that camera footage from nearby businesses on Calumet Road shows the movements of a Black Ford Ranger--not necessarily Dillard. Brown countered that while Dillard’s DNA was found in Gland’s vehicle, DNA from two unknown males was also found.

Witness testimony, Brown said, will indicate the Chesterton Police Department failed to collect surveillance footage of the area in Portage where they tracked Gland’s phone the day after the murder and that a CPD detective “made the unilateral decision” not to collect a knife found behind the Upper Deck Lounge in September 2017 because he thought it wasn’t the right type of knife to be the murder weapon. Brown said this evidence may have been relevant to the case, thus CPD has deprived the jury of potentially exculpatory evidence.

Brown contended that a slipshod investigation by CPD prompted Porter County Prosecutor Gary German to form a special task force, led by Porter County Sheriff’s Police Captain Jeff Biggs, to revisit the case upon German’s taking office in January 2019.

The evidence that’s not there will indicate that Dillard is a victim of the CPD’s “incompetence,” Brown added.

“No doubt about it Miss Gland is a victim. The second victim is her family and her friends because they want justice for their loved one, but I think you’ll find the third victim is Mr. Dillard,” Brown said.

The Defense’s focus on CPD’s alleged incompetence comes on the heels of an Appeals Court ruling that has raised ire in Duneland since a confession Dillard gave days after the murder was deemed inadmissible on the grounds that Chesterton Police Chief Dave Cincoski ignored Dillard’s requests for counsel three times in the course of an 11-hour interrogation.

Porter Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Clymer took special precaution in selecting jurors Monday after he twice denied earlier Defense requests to bring in an outside jury or try Dillard in another county. The Defense argued on those occasions that an impartial jury would be impossible to find in Porter County due to media coverage of the case and stricken confession.

Jury selection began at 9 a.m. and went until 7:15 p.m. Monday. A group of about 100 potential jurors was given a supplemental questionnaire gauging their knowledge of the case and questioned by both the Prosecution and Defense before attorneys settled on a jury.

The trial is scheduled to last three weeks.

 

 

Posted 10/23/2019

 
 
 
 

 

 

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