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Witness: Dillard asked Danny O's bartender how much money she made

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By LILY REX

A witness testified on Monday that Christopher Dillard, who stands accused of murdering an Upper Deck Lounge bartender on April 19, 2017, was at Danny O’s Bar and Grille the night of the murder--and he asked her how much money she made and if she walked out to her car alone.

Dillard, 53, is on trial for the murder of Nicole Gland, 23, who was killed in the early hours of April 19 behind the Upper Deck Lounge, 139 S. Calumet Road in Chesterton. A Chesterton Tribune employee found Gland slumped over in her silver SUV, which had hit and come to rest against a dumpster behind the Tribune office. Gland had been stabbed 24 times in the head, neck, and torso and had defensive wounds to her arms and hands.

Autumn Shudick testified on Monday that she was a bartender at Danny O’s, which is on Calumet Road approximately two miles south of Upper Deck, in 2017, and she knew Dillard as, “Taco,” the Upper Deck’s bouncer. Shudick said Dillard appeared in the Danny O’s parking lot on April 19 and waved her over to his pickup truck as she was taking a break to drive her stepdad home from the bar.

Dillard was upset and told her he had just been kicked out of Upper Deck because he had been drinking and gambling too much, according to Shudick. She said Dillard had a work glove with marijuana in it and offered her some. “He asked me if I liked to party,” she added. She recalled serving Dillard “Vegas bombs” and making small talk with him after she returned.

“He asked me how much money I made at Danny O’s. He asked me if I walked out alone, at one point,” Shudick said. “He asked me on multiple occasions if he was a good guy or not,” she told the Prosecution.

Dillard’s defense attorney Russell Brown asked Shudick if it was true she didn’t report the question about walking to her car alone when she was first interviewed by police. Shudick said she didn’t remember, but it was possible she hadn’t. However, she said she had only been up for 20 minutes at the time she was first interviewed, and she reached out to law enforcement after she had more time to reflect on what happened. Shudick said she has consistently told law enforcement about that comment.

Members of the jury submitted additional questions for Judge Jeffrey Clymer to ask Shudick. One juror asked if she recalled the colors of the glove Dillard was carrying. She said it had a black palm but may have been a different color on top. This prompted Chief Deputy Prosecutor Armando Salinas to ask if Dillard had the glove while he was in the bar. Shudick said she didn’t see him with it inside.

Jurors also asked about Dillard’s state of mind. One asked if he was high or intoxicated when he left the bar. Shudick said he wasn’t, and he seemed normal. She responded to another juror question that Dillard hadn’t made her feel uncomfortable that night, but she recalled feeling bad for him.

Andrew Brack, a patron at Danny O’s that night, testified that he talked to Dillard, who he also knew as the bouncer at Upper Deck, for about an hour, and Dillard was clearly upset. Brack said Dillard told him Upper Deck owner Jason Budzevski had sent him home and told him to take time away from work.

“At the end of the night, he told me he was going to go park his truck at Upper Deck and walk to a friend’s house,” Brack added.

Porter County Sheriff’s Police Detective Brian Dzedzinski, who reviewed security footage from Danny O’s, also testified on Tuesday. Dzedzinski said he was asked to interview Gland’s then boyfriend Santos Ortiz and review the Danny O’s footage the day after the murder, then he joined a special task force Porter County Prosecutor Gary German formed to review and organize the case materials early this year.

Dzedzinski said it was his understanding that the Northwest Indiana Major Crimes Task Force asked Gary Police to recover the DVR from Danny O’s the day after he reviewed it, but footage from the wrong day was collected. All that’s left of the footage is key screenshots and clips Dzedzinski took from it.

The footage, Dzedzinski said, shows Dillard pulling up to Danny O’s in his black Ford Ranger, talking to Shudick in the parking lot, going inside and drinking, then leaving northbound on Calumet Road at approximately 2:04 a.m. In the footage, Dillard can be seen wearing tennis shoes, a blue long-sleeve flannel shirt with a white undershirt beneath it, and dark pants with something sticking out of his back pocket. Dzedzinski said the item was possibly a glove.

On cross, Brown asked Dzedzinski if he also spoke with two property owners in the area of the Pleasant Valley Trailer park on McCool Road in Portage--earlier testimony revealed that Gland’s cell phone last pinged off a cell tower near there around 3:18 a.m. the night of her murder. Dzedzinski said he contacted one property owner who had home surveillance cameras at the time of the murder, but not until his second look at the case in February 2019. He said that homeowner’s footage no longer exists and was not recovered in the initial investigation.

Dzedzinski also explained for the jury how police determined what knife was missing from a knife block in the home Dillard shared with his former girlfriend. The missing knife is thought to be the same knife that Dillard was reportedly carrying in his truck in the weeks leading up to the murder.

Dzedzinski showed the jury the original knife block, which was missing one large knife when it was collected as evidence. He then showed the jury the same type of knife block and cutlery set, which the Special Task Force purchased to compare. The knife missing from the set is a “slicer” knife with an 8.5-inch blade, Dzedzinski said.

 

Posted 10/29/2019

 
 
 
 

 

 

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