FLORENCE — Testimony in the murder trial of an Apache Junction couple resumed Tuesday morning with testimony from a gang expert about how some “outlaw” motorcycle clubs operate.
Demian Blu, 44, is one of three men who were arrested in connection with the 2016 deaths of Keith Long and Renae Gardner. The couple were shot and killed while sleeping in their home in an Apache Junction trailer park. Long’s body was found in a canal near San Tan Valley. Gardner’s body was found along Beeline Highway/State Route 87 between Phoenix and Payson.
Blu is charged with three counts of first-degree murder and two counts of abandonment or concealment of a dead body. His trial started last week.
Clint Wendelschafer, 34, of Tempe and Nicholas Douglas, 45, of San Tan Valley were also accused of murdering the couple. Wendelschafer accepted a plea agreement in December 2019 and Douglas is awaiting trial. Wendelschafer is expected to testify in Blu’s trial.
Tuesday morning, Detective Carrie Savage described how outlaw motorcycle clubs typically accept new members through a process that involves vetting them to make sure they are a good fit, checking their background and making sure that they are loyal to the group through a probationary period. During that period, prospective members are usually required to handle a number of chores around the organization’s clubhouse and for club members. The probationary period also gives a prospect time to learn the rules and hierarchy of the club, she said.
She testified that trust is “extremely” important in outlaw motorcycle clubs because while not everyone in the club will commit a felony act, members have to make sure that they can trust that a new member will not go to the police with the information.
A violation of the club’s trust could lead to a range of different punishments, she said — including a prospect getting hit once, beaten up, having their motorcycle taken or being kicked out of the club, it depends on the club. It could also possibly lead to a homicide.
Savage also testified that respect in outlaw motorcycle clubs is typically taught through intimidation and fear.
Deputy County Attorney Patrick Chapman asked Savage if Long was a prospect of the Loose Cannon motorcycle club and if he was eventually kicked out. Savage said he was.
Chapman asked if Long delaying his move out of the trailer he was living in with Gardner when they were killed was a sign of disrespect to the Cannons because the Cannons allegedly controlled the park. Savage said it could be seen that way.
Chapman asked what were some of the benefits and drawbacks to an outlaw motorcycle club being associated with a murder. Savage said it could add to the respect of the club by other outlaw clubs. It could also draw additional attention from law enforcement to the club’s activities.
Savage also described where Douglas and Wendelschafer, Blu’s codefendants, were in the Loose Cannon hierarchy. Douglas was listed as the vice president of the Apache Junction chapter.
Wendelschafer was a prospect at the time of the murders and was accepted into the club a year later as its secretary.
Chapman later presented Savage with a list of contacts from Blu’s phone and his Facebook page asking her if she recognized any of the contacts as members of an outlaw motorcycle club. Savage pointed out a number of names in both lists as being part of the Loose Cannons club and a handful of others that belonged to other motorcycle clubs.
Joshua Wallace, one of Blu’s attorneys, asked Savage if Long was kicked out of the club because it was rumored that he was a sex offender and a hard drug user and that Gardner was a “cop caller,” someone who calls the police instead of settling things inside the club.
Savage said she knew he was beaten up and kicked out, supposedly for those reasons.
Wallace also pointed out that Long not moving out of the trailer park quickly enough for the Cannons could be seen as a sign of disrespect. He asked Savage if that kind of disrespect could cause an escalation in violence. Savage agreed.
Wallace also questioned Savage about a comment she made during an interview with defense attorneys in March 2021, where she told attorneys that she was surprised that only three members of the club had allegedly been involved in the deaths of Long and Gardner.
Savage said it was possible that she had said that but she didn’t recall. After reviewing transcripts from the interview, she agreed that is what she had said.
Wallace also asked her whether the president of the motorcycle club would be aware of everything that was going on in the club. Savage said that club presidents are responsible for the club and are supposed to be aware of what is going on inside the club but sometimes they find out after the fact.
Wallace also asked her if Blu was a hang-around or a prospect for the Loose Cannons. Savage said Blu’s status at the time was kind of murky, but she didn’t believe he was a prospect.
He asked if Douglas was still a member of the Loose Cannons. Savage said he was.
Wallace asked if it would be strange for a lower member of the club, such as a hang-around, to commit a murder for the club. Savage said it would not be, but she seemed to indicate that it was unlikely.
Wallace asked if Wendelschafer may have been admitted into the club because of his connections with the death of Long and Gardner. Savage said she thought there might be a connection but was not sure that that was the specific reason why he was accepted into the club.
Wallace also pointed out that Wendelschafer was voted out of the club after it was revealed that he was working with law enforcement in the case. Savage agreed that the club learned about that sometime after the March 2021 interview with defense attorneys.
Attorneys in the case also questioned Apache Junction Police Detective Steven Jeansonne about how he used a program to download data from various phones related to the case including Blu’s phone.
Jeansonne testified that depending on the phone, detectives could sometimes extract deleted information or information that was overwritten by the phone.
Testimony for the day ended with prosecutors starting to question Arizona Attorney General’s Office Special Agent Ariel Perez, who was an Apache Junction detective at the time of the murders. Perez’s testimony is expected to continue Wednesday at 9 a.m.