The state has rested its case in the first-degree murder trial of Michael Ian Palmer.
After nine days of testimony, Marion County Prosecuting Attorney Patrick Wilson on Thursday finished his questioning of Detective Shawn Mathews of the Marion County’s Sherriff’s Department, who was the final witness for the state. Defense attorney Sean Murphy will bring his first witness to the stand today.
Palmer, of Baxter, was arrested in June 2012 and charged with the premeditated murder of his father-in-law, Everett “Ed” Wilson. Wilson was shot to death at the Baxter home of his daughter, Kristyn Palmer, and son-in-law, Michael Palmer, on Dec. 11, 2011.
To start his testimony Thursday, Mathews continued to be questioned by Patrick Wilson where he left off Wednesday.
On Wednesday, a 911 call from Michael Palmer on Nov. 19, 2011, was played for the jury. Palmer had called 911 to report a threat from his “drunken father-in-law” and wanted to have it logged.
Wilson asked Mathews if, based on the call, he believed Palmer was afraid of his father-in-law, Ed Wilson. Mathews said no and went on to explain that in the recording Palmer said things like “he guessed he would like to make a report” and that “it really wasn’t an emergency.”
“(Palmer) stated that he didn’t want to get (Wilson) in trouble,” Mathews said. “He also stated that he didn’t need police there at the time.”
Mathews said the sheriff’s department receives calls on a daily basis from residents reporting something. He said if someone wants an officer to come to where they are, an officer responds immediately to the request.
Wilson asked Mathews whether an officer would have been sent if Palmer had requested one, and Mathews said yes.
Also on Wednesday, the 911 call Palmer made the night of Dec. 11, 2011, was played for the jury. On Thursday, Mathews was asked by Wilson if there were any similarities between the 911 call from Nov. 19, 2011, and the 911 call from Dec. 11, 2011. Mathews told the jury that Palmer “uses the exact same language in both calls.”
Mathews said that in the November tape, Palmer said “my drunken father-in-law is threatening to kick in my door and blow off my head.” In the December tape, Mathews stated that Palmer said “kicking in my door” and “blow off my (explicit) head” numerous times throughout the call.
“(The calls) are almost word for word,” Mathews said.
Also during his testimony, Mathews was asked about when he arrived on the scene the night of Dec. 11, 2011. Mathews said that when he arrived, Deputy Tony Veltri took him on a walkthrough of the crime scene. Mathews said he then went through the residence by himself, placing evidence tents on anything he found out of the ordinary. After he placed tents throughout the house, he went back and collected evidence he felt was necessary.
Mathews said there were wood chips on the floor of the kitchen and computer room, which is to the right of the kitchen. Although he placed evidence tents by them, he said he didn’t collect the wood chips as evidence.
“I knew that it came from the countertop because it was the same style wood and same texture,” Mathews said. “Everything matched up, so it wasn’t necessary for me to go further with that.”
Wilson asked Mathews if there was any question in his mind that the wood chips didn’t come from the countertop. Mathews said there was no question that the wood chips came from the countertop and that Palmer told him something about the wood chips.
“(Palmer) told me that when he missed the first time and hit the counter, he said, ‘That s--- went everywhere,’” Mathews said.
Continuing with his testimony, Mathews said he used his sight and an alternate light source to look for trace evidence including gunpowder. His tests showed that no gunpowder was on Ed Wilson’s clothing.
Mathews said he did notice bullet wipe on the entrance wound of Wilson’s left side.
“Bullet wipe is a black ring around the bullet entrance,” he told the jury. “What that consists of is bullet holes, barrel, black powder that could be attached to the bullet. As it goes through cloth, it’s going to leave a black ring.”
Based on bullet wipe being present, Mathews said that will tell him a weapon had fired 4 to 5 feet away from the target.
“The entire dimensions of (where the shot was fired) is going to be 2 feet 9 inches by approximately 6 feet 9 inches square,” Mathews told the jury.
Mathews testified that he looked at the boots Ed Wilson had on that night and noticed that the toes of the boots didn’t have an impression on them.
“The leather of the boot is softer than the door,” Mathews told the jury. “If the boot went into the door, it would have left an impression on the boot.”
Patrick Wilson asked about the case form he sent to the West Virginia State Police Crime Lab. Mathews had written on the form under “brief description of crime” that the victim had entered the suspect’s house with force. Wilson asked Mathews why he wrote that description.
“That’s what the suspect had claimed at the time,” Mathews told the jury.
Mathews stated that based on the physical evidence of the case, he doesn’t believe that’s what happened.
During cross examination with Murphy, Mathews was asked about the measurements he took in order to create a diagram of the layout of the Palmer residence. Mathews told the jury that he took measurements the night of the shooting and returned several times between that night and January of this year.
Mathews stated that the diagram was not to scale because a wall might be exactly 28.3 inches but the diagram shows that it’s 28 inches.
Murphy asked Mathews about his background. Murphy showed a diploma for a degree in forensic science from Ashworth University that Mathews had earned.
Murphy asked Mathews if when getting this degree he only took online classes. Mathews said the classes were online but that he did hands-on practices at Fairmont State University to go along with the classes.
Mathews was asked by Murphy why he didn’t collect the wood chips he found in the kitchen and computer room. Mathews told the jury he only collected evidence that was necessary to the investigation and that he knew where the wood chips came from.
Also on Thursday, Kristyn Lorraine Palmer, Michael Palmer’s wife who is being held at the North Central Regional Jail and has also been charged with the premeditated shooting death of her father, was present in the courtroom to put on the record whether or not she was going to testify.
Marion Circuit Judge Michael Aloi had said earlier in the trial that Kristyn Palmer is not compelled to testify at her husband’s trial but can do so voluntarily. Because of confusion, Aloi wanted Palmer to come to the courthouse and put it on the record what she wanted to do.
Palmer told Aloi she wanted to exercise her Fifth Amendment right and not testify at the trial. Aloi said her Fifth Amendment right trumps her Sixth Amendment right because she is being charged with a crime.
The trial will continue today.
Email Emily Gallagher at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @EGallagherTWV.
Kristyn Palmer, also charged, says that she will not testify
The state has rested its case in the first-degree murder trial of Michael Ian Palmer.
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