Judge denies defense motion for mistrial

 

By Kevin Spradlin
PeeDeePost.com

Previous coverage
* 4/2: Defense seeks mistrial
* 4/1: Detective: ‘I forgot’ to search co-defendant’s home
* 4/1: Pete Ingram: ‘To clear myself, I’d tell on my momma’
* 3/31: Co-defendant: ‘My uncle killed that man’
* 3/31: Defendant’s nephew: My uncle did it
* 3/30: 911 calls replayed, detectives questioned
* 3/30: Victim’s wife of defendant: ‘He was our friend’
* 3/27: Alternates selected, opening statements set for Monday
* 3/26: Medical emergency delays murder trial
* 3/25: ‘At a particular place at a particular time’
* 3/25: Jury set in murder trial of Norman General Store owner
* 3/25: Prospective juror caught up in gambling ring
* 3/24: Race becomes an issue in jury selection
* 3/24: Defense works from “presumption of innocence”
* 3/23: Jury selection begins in murder trial

ROCKINGHAM — Superior Court Judge Richard T. Brown rejected early Thursday afternoon a motion by the defense in the murder trial of Alexander Ingram for a mistrial.

Shortly before the lunch recess, defense attorney Frank Wells made the motion after the brother of co-defendant Pete Ingram, who is being tried separately, conveyed that Alexander Ingram allegedly threatened Pete Ingram’s life on the morning of Nov. 27, 2012. Alexander Ingram is on trial for the Nov. 26, 2012 murder of former Norman General Store owner Michael Leverne Collins Sr.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Superior Court Judge Richard T. Brown, Assistant District Attorney Dawn Layton and defense attorneys Frank Wells (center) and Stephen Freedman confer at the bench.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Superior Court Judge Richard T. Brown, Assistant District Attorney Dawn Layton and defense attorneys Frank Wells (center) and Stephen Freedman confer at the bench.

Assistant District Attorney Dawn Layton put Neil Ratliffe, nephew to Alexander Ingram and brother of co-defendant Pete Ingram, on the stand at 12:12 p.m. Ratliffe said Pete Ingram came to his house at about 5:45 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2012 — the morning after Collins was killed. Ratliffe lived at the time on Brutonville Road in a small Montgomery County community of Brutonville.

With the jury out of the courtroom, Ratliffe was to testify that Pete Ingram had arrived at his home the morning after the murder, went to sleep and later walked to the home of Ratliffe’s father-in-law for a ride back to his Candor home, which he shared with his mother.

With jurors present, however, Ratliffe said Pete Ingram told him Alexander Ingram had threatened Pete Ingram, to the effect of, “You’re gonna be next.”

In his denial of the motion, Brown said that Ratliffe’s testimony came after “an extensive bench conference” between Brown, Layton, Wells and fellow defense attorney Stephen Freedman and that the matter deserved a written response. At 2:35 p.m. Thursday, Brown said he felt he was approximately two-thirds finished with that written response and that it would be available at an unspecified later date.

Possible blood on some clothing not others

The witness stand produced testimony Thursday afternoon by expert witnesses from the state crime lab in paint and blood. Amy Brewer, a trace evidence specialist based in Raleigh, said the paint on the hasp and lock on the back door of the Norman General Store and the specks of paint on the hammer — believed to be the murder weapon — were “physically and characteristically consistent” and the paint on the hammer “could have” originated from the hasp.

Fellow expert Wendell Ivory, a forensic serologist, performed a “preliminary presumptive” test for possible blood on a number of articles of clothing taken from Pete Ingram at the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office, from Alexander Ingram’s Jackson Springs home and from clothing found under a bridge along MacCallum Pond Road in Montgomery County. The test is called the Kastle-Meyer test.

* From Pete Ingram’s blue jeans: Ivory testified he found “a smudge” — one that was “very difficult to see” — of what he suspected could be blood and performed the preliminary test. It came back positive as a possible chemical indication for the presence of blood.

* From the flannel shirt, blue jeans and blue ball cap found under the bridge in Big Creek: Ivory testified that there was no confirmation of a chemical indication for the presence of blood. Layton asked if the water could dilute possible blood deposits.

The Kastle-Meyer test, Ivory said, could detect a chemical indication of the presence of blood on a single drop of blood diluted by 10,000 drops of water — about half a cup. But with 10,001 drops of water, “then the test is not capable” of detecting blood.

“There’s a lot of water in a flowing creek,” Ivory said. “That’s more than half a cup.”

Wells, on cross, asked Ivory if he had the authority to sometimes request an item he feels should be tested if he knows it’s been collected but not sent to him for analysis.

“It can be (requested) if something seems out of sorts,” Ivory said.

Wells inquired of Ivory if the top garments worn by a man suspected of murder would be considered important.

Yes, Ivory said, “it would be important. Definitely. If it was known, yes, I would probably” have requested to test it.

For want of a search warrant

The point Wells was making was that investigators never sought the shirt or jacket Pete Ingram is alleged to have worn the night of the murder. Pete Ingram told Richmond County Sheriff’s Office Det. Robert Heaton, while being interviewed on Nov. 27, 2012 in downtown Rockingham, that he’d changed tops at his mother’s house — at her insistence.

Heaton told jurors on Wednesday that he “forgot” to request a search warrant to obtain the garment or garments once Pete Ingram said he’d lead investigators to the hammer. On Thursday, Capt. Jay Childers, supervisor of the criminal investigations division for the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office, said it wasn’t up to Heaton to decide whether or not to pursue Pete Ingram’s clothing: It was his.

“I made the decision,” Childers said. “That’s not his decision. That would be my decision.”

Childers said he made the decision not to pursue the clothing approximately 24 to 30 hours after the murder took place. It was he, Childers said, who made the decision not to request a search warrant for Pete Ingram’s home in Candor, which he shared with his mother, even though the Collins’ wallet — suspected of having between $400 and $500 cash inside — was not recovered at Alexander Ingram’s Jackson Springs home.

“That is correct,” Childers said.

Freedman, on cross, asked Childers where in his notes on the case is it mentioned when he made the decision not to pursue Pete Ingram’s clothing. It isn’t, Childers said.

Childers told jurors that going after Pete Ingram’s clothing wasn’t “a lead factor” at the time and expressed concern about the scene at Pete Ingram’s home being contaminated by visiting relatives.

“Look through your notes,” Freedman prodded, and tell the court “that there was anybody in Pete Ingram’s home” other than his mother.

“I don’t have anything in my notes,” Childers replied.

“The fact is,” Freedman contended, no one knows “what was on the jacket (or) shirt of Pete Ingram. We will not know that because the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office made the decision not to go to his house.”

“Yes,” Childers said.

 

Filed in: Ellerbe/Norman, Featured News, Latest Headlines, News, Public safety, Rockingham

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