Jurors hear testimony in Litchfield murder trial
Fri, 2016-10-07 05:00 News Staff
By BRITTANY FHOLER
After a longer than normal jury selection, the trial for the 1999 murder of Raymond “Red” Litchfield began Tuesday afternoon in the 52nd district court in Gatesville.
Litchfield was found by his wife, Margaret, dead in their home on January 29, 1999 from gunshot wounds from a .22-caliber weapon, believed to be his own. Time of death was estimated to be between 4 a.m. and 8 a.m.
Margaret Litchfield was arrested in April 2015 and charged with her husband’s murder. She pled not guilty at the beginning of Tuesday’s trial prior to opening statements. The defense opted to reserve their opening statements while Coryell County district attorney Dusty Boyd started by explaining to the jurors what the purpose of an opening statement was: to start the jury on the path to follow the evidence and witness testimony and arrive at the proper verdict. Boyd referred to it as a “road map”.
In this trial, there will be over 30 witnesses compartmentalized into at least four sections: law enforcement; medical and forensic; financial; and family and friends of the Litchfield’s, Boyd said.
Boyd listed the names of several witnesses and what purpose their testimony would serve, including those who were involved in the case in 1999 as well as those who became involved when the cold case was reopened.
Boyd told the jurors to pay close attention to the various details and advised that when all the testimony and evidence is put together, it would prove Margaret Litchfield killed her husband.
The first piece of evidence admitted was a recording of the 9-1-1 call made by Margaret after she found her husband. In the call, she is heard saying that her husband is on the floor and that blood is everywhere, as well as saying that he is “cold. So very cold.” She also says “What do I do?”
The first witness called by the district attorney was Officer Steve Sheldon, of the Lampasas Police Department. Sheldon was one of the Coryell County Sheriff’s Office deputies who responded to the 9-1-1 call at 757 Lawson Lane. Sheldon said he remembered that Raymond Litchfield was found in the kitchen laying in front of the refrigerator, nude, with blood on him or around him.
After Sheldon’s testimony, the court recessed early for the day, starting again at 9:00 a.m. Wednesday morning.
The next witness called to the stand on Wednesday was Joaquin Salazar, currently a sergeant with the Copperas Cove Police Department. In 1999, Salazar was a detective with CCPD and was at the scene to assist the county officials in clearing the residence.
The third witness was Brian Wyers, who was also a detective with CCPD in 1999, and also at the scene to assist with the county officials.
Wyers said his job was to check and clear the house. Neither Salazar nor Wyers had any contact with Margaret Litchfield at the crime scene, they said.
Sheldon’s report, as well as Salazar’s and Wyers’, on the incident was missing and unable to be found, which meant that their testimony was from memory of an event that happened more than 16 years ago, as pointed out by the defense, who questioned whether it was accurate information.
The fourth witness was Steven May, who is currently with the Allen Police Department but was an investigator with the Coryell County attorney’s office at the time of the Litchfield murder. May had experience in taking crime scene photographs and ended up taking photos of the crime scene and of Litchfield’s body, he said.
May noticed the body had lividity, which he described as when the heart stops pumping blood and the skin turns a purplish color. May said he also noticed stippling, which is a pattern created around a gunshot wound when a firearm is discharged close to the skin. May explained that he was first under the impression that it was a suicide due to a miscommunication. If it were a suicide, he added, there would be contact and blackening due to the close proximity.
The district attorney introduced nearly 100 photographs of the outside of Litchfields’ home and the inside crime scene as evidence. The photos included close ups of the shell casings, bullet holes, blood splatter and transfer, as well as several photos of the victim’s body, which were not shown to spectators of the court- just to jurors and witnesses.
May explained to the jury what each photo consisted of and what angles the photos were taken from. Also introduced as evidence were two sections of carpet with bullet holes that had been cut from the floor of the master bedroom.
From the photographs taken by May, it showed that Raymond Litchfield was lying in bed on the right side when he was shot in bed once and then again as he moved out of bed, and then shot again as he moved away from the bed. There were six shots total, with three shots hitting him.
Robert Harris, Margaret’s defense attorney, pointed out that a .22-caliber gun could be a long rifle or a handgun. When Harris asked whether it would be possible to determine who the shooter was from the photographs, he was told no.
The final witness on Wednesday was Tom Bevel, president of Bevel, Gardner & Associates Inc. which is a forensic education and consulting group. Bevel said he specializes in reconstructing events in crime scenes and was hired by the state of Texas to consult on the Litchfield case after it was reopened.
Bevel’s testimony, based off of his written report, clarified what type of wounds Raymond Litchfield received and in what order as well as the path the bullets and Litchfield took after the six shots were fired.
The first shot was to the right chest area, leaving a 3.5-inch diameter of stippling, Bevel said. The trajectory of this bullet from the entry was from front to back, right to left, and downward, as Litchfield rolled away, Bevel said. Bevel placed the shooter on the opposite side of the bed, partially on or leaning against the western edge of the bed when they fired the first shot.
The second shot was through Litchfield’s back, with an entry and exit wound. The third shot and fourth shots both missed Litchfield, lodging in the bed and the floor, Bevel said. The shooter then moved away from the end of the bed by the fourth shot, Bevel said. The fifth and sixth shots could be interchangeable, Bevel said. One ended up going through the door through the wall, ending up in the air-conditioning closet. The other ended up in Litchfield’s rear right shoulder, Bevel said.
The bloodstains in the hallway and kitchen showed that Litchfield made his way to the kitchen where he slumped over and laid in front of the refrigerator, Bevel said.
Because of the small caliber of the weapon, it is not likely that Litchfield died instantaneously, Bevel said.
The defense clarified that Bevel’s report does not name a shooter or a specific weapon, aside from the caliber of the weapon, and that a .22-caliber bullet could be fired from a rifle or a pistol, interchangeably. Bevel said he could not rule out the possibility of a rifle being used, but later said that the fact that a .22-caliber handgun was missing made him more likely to believe the weapon used was a handgun.
The defense requested an early break on Wednesday to have more time to prepare for the next day of the trial and the next section of witnesses.