FLORENCE — Pinal County Superior Court Judge Robert Carter Olson will issue a decision on Monday on how much detail from cellphone records collected in a 2016 double homicide case that prosecutors will be able to show to the jury.
The Apache Junction case involves the deaths of Keith Long and Renae Gardner, who were killed in their home in a trailer park in Apache Junction in 2016.
Demian Blu, 44, is one of three men who were arrested in connection with the couple’s deaths. He 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.
Late Friday afternoon, Olson excused the jury from the courtroom to discuss an issue that had come up between prosecutors and Blu’s attorneys about a series of cellphone records that an expert was expected to testify about in the trial.
Christopher Duran, one of Blu’s attorneys, stated in court that prosecutors had alerted him and Blu’s other attorney, Joshua Wallace, during the lunch break Friday that the cellphone expert might include data from other people who called Blu, Wendelschafer and Douglas in his testimony. Prosecutors offered to set up an impromptu interview to give Blu’s attorneys a chance to talk to the expert about the records.
After the brief interview, attorneys from both sides brought the issue before Olson. Duran argued that it sounded like prosecutors planned to bring in additional information that was not previously revealed to defense attorneys in the disclosure of the original cellphone records in March of 2020.
Deputy Pinal County Attorney Patrick Chapman argued that the information was included in the original database of phone records and that it would just be added to a Google Earth map that had already been created and given to defense attorneys of where various cellphone calls had been made by Blu, Douglas and Wendelschafer between May 20 and May 28, 2016.
Duran pointed to a rule of evidence that states that if an expert is expected to testify about a general collection of data, then prosecutors are expected to give defense attorneys a summary of what the expert is expected to talk about. Duran said that he and Wallace had been given the database and the original map of the calls but not a summary of what the expert was expected to say and they had not had enough time to review the changes to the map.
Duran said adding the new call information to the map could be prejudicial to his client.
Duran said he did not fault prosecutors for the late information because they had had to take over the case swiftly from a previous prosecutor who had left the County Attorney’s Office a couple of weeks ago. However, the revelation of the new map material in the middle of the trial did feel a bit like an ambush.
After seeing a presentation of the additional map information, Olson stated that he would give attorneys his decision on the matter on Monday. Jurors were then called back into the courtroom and released for the weekend.
Jurors also heard testimony on Friday from a gun expert who explained how the Arizona Department of Public Safety crime lab examines guns, bullets and casings to determine what kind of gun may be related to a crime or if a specific gun was involved in a crime.
They also heard additional testimony from Pinal County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Michael Benedict about how and where Gardner’s body was found. Benedict described how the scene was handled and what evidence was found at the scene before the trial recessed for lunch.
The trial is expected to continue with the jury on Tuesday.