FLORENCE — The jury in an Apache Junction double murder trial heard closing statements Friday afternoon.
Demian Blu, 44, from Apache Junction is accused of shooting and killing Keith Long and Ranae Gardner in 2016 while the couple were sleeping in their home in an Apache Junction mobile home park. Blu, Clint Wendelschafer, 34, of Tempe, and Nicholas Douglas, 45, of San Tan Valley have all been charged in the deaths of the couple. Wendelschafer accepted a plea agreement in December 2019 and agreed to testify against Blu and Douglas.
Blu is charged with two counts of first-degree murder, one count of conspiring to commit first-degree murder, one count of hindering prosecution, one count of conspiring to hinder prosecution, one count of assisting a street gang by abandoning or concealing a body and one count of abandoning or concealing a body.
Prosecutors argued that the evidence found in Blu’s car, cellphone records, text messages, Facebook posts and messages, and witness testimony, including from Blu’s co-defendant Wendelschafer, all pointed to Blu being guilty.
Deputy Pinal County Attorney Patrick Chapman stated that Blu was at one of the lowest rungs in the society of the Loose Cannons motorcycle club, a guest. He wasn’t even considered a prospect for joining the club, but he wanted to join the club so badly that he was willing to kill two people.
“He took their lives for his own benefit,” Chapman said.
Chapman pointed out that Wendelschafer, who testified against Blu during the trial, was the only person in the case who had the courage to come forward and testify about what had happened. No one in the trailer park called 911 after hearing the gunshots because most of the residents of the park were members of the motorcycle club and those who weren’t didn’t want to cause trouble with the club, which ran the park.
Blu was the one who had parts of Long’s motorcycle stored in his car. Blu was the one who had a pair of jeans with blood that was traced back to Gardner in his car. Blu was the one who had photos of himself on Long’s motorcycle on Facebook after the murders, touting that he had earned a new motorcycle by working for a family member.
The holster for Wendelschafer’s gun, which law enforcement officials and prosecutors believe was used to shoot Long and Gardner, was found after the murders in the saddlebags on Long’s motorcycle after Blu returned it to a friend of Long’s and it was confiscated by police. The gun that was used in the murders was never found.
Prosecutors claimed that Blu was seen with a gun that looked very similar to Wendelschafer’s after the murder.
Blu’s attorney, Joshua Wallace, argued that Blu didn’t kill or conspire to kill Long and Gardner. He may have helped clean up after the murders.
Wallace argued that the Loose Cannons motorcycle club used Douglas and Wendelschafer to kill Long and Gardner. The two men were the perfect ones to commit the crime because the members of the club knew them. The members of the club didn’t know Blu as well and didn’t know if he would go to the police.
Blu didn’t have a motive to commit the murders because he wasn’t a member of the club or even a prospect for the club, Wallace said. Wallace pointed to testimony from a motorcycle gang expert who testified in the case that people who wanted to join a motorcycle gang like the Loose Cannons cannot skip the year-long prospect phase because they have to earn the trust of the club members.
Blu was in the wrong place at the wrong time because he was the maintenance man at the trailer park and the Loose Cannons motorcycle members had tasked him with cleaning up, Wallace said.
“He was caught between a rock and a hard place after the murders,” Wallace said. “He was dead if he called the cops and damned if he didn’t.”
Wallace reminded the jury that the U.S. Constitution declares a person is innocent until proven guilty and he did not believe that prosecutors had proved that Blu was the person who had committed the murders.
Wallace pointed out that Wendelschafer had testified that he saw Blu and Douglas walk into the trailer park but he did not see where they went inside the trailer park. He did not see who entered Long’s trailer or who pulled the trigger because he was sitting in a truck at a convenience store across the street from the entrance to the park.
Wallace also pointed out that Wendelschafer’s story about what happened that night changed at least four times from the first time he spoke with police to his testimony in court. At first Wendelschafer said he didn’t know anything about the murders, then he allegedly told law enforcement that Douglas had told him that he, Douglas, had shot the couple. Later, Wendelschafer allegedly told law enforcement that Douglas told him that Blu had done the shooting, Wallace said. And then in court, Wendelschafer testified that Blu had told him the night of the murders that he had shot the couple.
Wallace also pointed out that Wendelschafer had lied about his gun. He lied when he reported it stolen to the Tempe Police Department. He also lied when he said he didn’t see anyone handle his gun the night of the murders and then testified that he saw Douglas with the weapon on the night of the murders.
Wallace also pointed out that Wendelschafer had a motive to lie in the case. He was facing a possible life sentence in prison, with the possibility of parole after 25 years, before he accepted the plea agreement. Now, if Wendelschafer stuck to the terms of the plea agreement, he could possibly only serve a few years in prison.
Wallace also stated that the timeline from cellphone and messaging data that the prosecution presented for the night of the murders didn’t fit Wendelschafer’s testimony that the murders occurred between midnight and 12:30 a.m.
Wallace agreed that some of the evidence presented might show that Blu had helped clean up the crime scene but there was no evidence that directly linked him to being the shooter other than Wendelschafer’s testimony.
Judge Robert Carter Olson gave the jury a set of instructions on how to evaluate the evidence and what the law states about each count against Blu. The jury is expected to start deliberations on Monday.