Friends and family testify in Litchfield murder trial
Fri, 2016-10-14 05:00 News Staff
By BRITTANY FHOLER
The second week of testimony in the trial for the murder of Raymond Litchfield shifted the focus to friends and family of Raymond and his widow, Margaret, who is charged with his murder, at the 52nd district court in Gatesville on Tuesday.
One of the alternate jurors was sworn in to replace a juror who had a family emergency after the lunch break Tuesday.
Before the lunch break, jurors listened to testimony from Randy Battreal, who had been put forth in previous witness questioning by Margaret’s defense attorney, Mike Magana, as a possible suspect in Raymond’s murder due to the rumor of him finding out about a sex tape involving Raymond and Battreal’s daughter.
Battreal, who claimed to have known Litchfield since the late 1970s, said he had a professional and personal relationship with Raymond and described them to be good friends who talked at least once or twice a week. He added that he met Margaret through Litchfield and that they got along well.
Battreal told the jury that he was at his used car lot by 8 a.m. the morning of Raymond’s murder. Raymond was supposed get a boat that day and was supposed to pick up Battreal to go with him, Battreal said. When he didn’t show, Battreal called and left Raymond a voicemail, he said.
Battreal didn’t learn of Raymond’s death until the next morning when he stopped in at Ches’s Restaurant, he said.
Battreal was asked repeatedly by district attorney Dusty Boyd is he had any reason to hurt, harm or hill Raymond. He said no.
“Raymond was my buddy,” Battreal said. When he was asked again, he said no again. When Magana asked why he was getting so defensive, Battreal said Raymond was his friend and that he had no reason to kill him. Neither the prosecutors nor the defense attorneys asked Battreal about the rumor regarding the sex tape.
The next witness was Amanda Wood, whose house Margaret was meant to clean the morning of the murder. Wood told jurors that Margaret arrived around 8:30 and didn’t clean the house because she and her husband had decided to stay home. Margaret left about 30 minutes later, Wood said. The next time Margaret tried to come clean the house after Raymond’s murder, Wood’s dog would not let her in the yard, Wood said. Wood and her husband spoke to investigators twice- once in 1999 and once several years later with a Texas Ranger named Jesse Ramos. In 1999, they did not admit to buying marijuana from Margaret, Wood said.
“I would leave the money on my dining room table and the marijuana would appear,” Wood said. Boyd clarified that she bought from Margaret. Wood said that had happened a couple of times.
Another witness was John Kilpatrick, who had worked for Raymond prior to his death. In previous witness testimony and reading of police reports, Kilpatrick’s name came up as being part of a $500 dispute with Litchfield.
Kilpatrick testified that he never fought or had a verbal argument with Litchfield. They had talks about money and about changes to houses, Kilpatrick said. When Magana brought up the $500 dispute, Kilpatrick said that any dispute with Raymond was taken care of. There was no argument and Raymond ended up paying him, Kilpatrick said.
Margaret’s former daughter-in-law, Hilda Ness, testified next. Margaret had become her mother-in-law but had acted as her mother since she was 17, Ness said. Ness testified that when she saw Margaret in the hours after Raymond was found, Margaret was “uncontrollably upset.” Margaret ended up going to stay with Ness and her husband, Ronald “Corky” Bryan, until the house was released by Texas Rangers.
Ness told Magana and the jury that she believed Margaret was innocent and would have never allowed Margaret to come live with her if she thought otherwise, because she had a 17-month-old baby at the time. During Ness’ testimony, Boyd brought up several of Margaret’s Facebook posts from 2013 and 2015 including one that said “I support a woman’s right to choose revolver or pistol”; one that said “If your dog doesn’t like someone, you shouldn’t either”; and one that said “Repost this if you know someone still alive because you can’t afford a hitman.” Those posts seemed inconsistent with someone who lost their husband the way Margaret did, Boyd said.
Ronald “Corky” Bryan, Margaret’s son, was the next witness and also spoke about Margaret’s character and her relationship with Raymond. They were best friends, he said. He believed Margaret was innocent and couldn’t have killed Raymond.
David Brown, who went to school with Raymond and later hired Margaret to work at his business, told the jury he believed Margaret was innocent and that he trusted her enough to let her run his business when he was in the hospital for a few weeks. He didn’t believe she killed Raymond because he watched as she lost her two trucks and nearly lost her house, Brown said.
“Margaret had everything to lose and nothing to gain from killing her husband,” Brown said.
As he had with Ness and Bryan, Boyd confirmed with Brown that he did not know every detail or fact of the shooting or Margaret’s exact whereabouts that day. Their opinions and beliefs of Margaret’s innocence were based on personal history and interaction with Margaret, not because that had proof of her innocence, Boyd said.
By the end of the day Tuesday, 11 witnesses had testified, compared to the 13 who had testified in the first week of the trial.
Wednesday started with testimony from E.A. Hughes, who considered himself a longtime friend of Raymond’s.
Boyd brought up Hughes’ grand jury testimony where he had articulated that he believed Margaret had something to do with Raymond’s death, because of Raymond’s temper and the issues with the boat, but that he had no proof.
Boyd also brought up Margaret’s grand jury testimony from 2014 and 2015 when former Texas Ranger Fred Cummings took the stand. Boyd compared the written statement Cummings took from Margaret in 1999 to her grand jury testimony and pointed out the inconsistencies. In 1999, she said she last saw Raymond lying in bed, on the east side. In 2014 and 2015, she said he was in the kitchen by the counter. Boyd said. In 1999, Margaret said Raymond had two cups of decaffeinated coffee while she had regular coffee. In 2014 and 2015, Margaret said that she didn’t make coffee that morning and that if Raymond drank coffee, it would be at Ches’a. Another inconsistency Boyd brought up was how Margaret told a friend that the life insurance policy she found in March 1999 was worth $20,000, how she told the grand jury that it was worth $10,000 and how it was actually worth $30,000. These inconsistencies would be highly suspicious, Boyd said. Cummings agreed that they would be.
The final witnesses of Wednesday were David Litchfield, Raymond’s son, and Faye Litchfield Powell, Raymond’s sister.
David told the jury that he called Margaret after he found out from his aunt about Raymond’s death. She didn’t seem that upset, but he assumed it was shock, David said.
Margaret never asked or talked to David about finding Raymond’s killer, David said.
“I always thought if you weren’t guilty, you would try to find the killer,” David said.
Powell explained to the jury that after Raymond’s death, she approached local newspapers every anniversary to print an article looking for new information in his murder. There was also a large sum of money offered as a reward for information, Powell said.
Powell told the jury that her relationship with her brother was great and remained good even after he moved away and then back. She said she got along with Margaret as well.
Before Raymond’s death, Margaret got along well with Raymond’s family and mother, Powell said.
“She was always welcome in my mother’s house,” Powell said.
After Raymond was murdered, what was once a steady interaction ceased to exist, Powell said.
“My mother was heartbroken,” Powell said. “She couldn’t understand why.”
Powell added that the last time she spoke to Margaret was at 3:20 p.m. on January 29, 1999 when she asked her “Who in God’s green Earth would kill him?” and Margaret said she didn’t know.
The trial continued on Thursday.