FLORENCE — The argument over a gun that Demian Blu may have had in his possession came up again out of earshot of the jury Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning.
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.
Just before the jury was excused for the day on Tuesday, prosecutors started to question Arizona Attorney General’s Office Special Agent Ariel Perez about a gun that one of the witnesses in the case, Hope Silich, had brought into the Apache Junction Police Department.
At the time of the murders, Perez was a detective with Apache Junction Police and was attempting to find Gardner, who was still listed as a missing person in June 2016. Her body was found later.
Blu’s attorneys objected to a photograph of a gun that was shown to Perez. Perez identified the gun as a 9 mm Ruger that was black and silver in color and similar to one that Silich and her boyfriend had brought into the Apache Junction Police station.
The jury was sent out of the courtroom while Blu’s attorneys argued that it was Silich’s boyfriend who had given the gun to Perez, not Silich, and Silich’s boyfriend had recently died and could not testify about giving the gun to Perez. They accused prosecutors of trying to claim that the gun may be the murder weapon.
Prosecutors argued that Silich and her boyfriend lived together and that they arrived at the police station together with the gun and that detectives had questioned Silich about the gun as well as her boyfriend.
They also stated that they did not believe that Silich’s gun was the murder weapon but wanted to show that Blu was in possession of a gun at Silich’s home. Because Silich could not identify the gun as hers while she was being questioned during the trial, they wanted to use Perez’s testimony to prove that the gun in the photo was hers.
Prosecutors also pointed out that the gun in the photos was a different caliber from the one that is believed to be the murder weapon. The murder weapon was never found.
Blu’s attorneys then raised the concern that jurors might get confused as to which gun was which.
In an effort to resolve the situation, Judge Robert Carter Olson allowed Blu’s attorneys to briefly question Perez about the gun outside of the view of the jury.
Christopher Duran, one of Blu’s attorneys, asked Perez if Silich and her boyfriend were separated and interviewed separately and if Silich’s boyfriend was the person who handed him the gun. Perez confirmed that the two were interviewed separately and that Silich’s boyfriend handed him the gun.
Perez stated he could not remember if he showed Silich the gun during his interview with her that day, but he did say that she referred to the gun as “hers and ours.”
After hearing Perez’s responses to the attorneys, Olson overruled Blu’s attorney’s objection and allowed prosecutors to question Perez further about the photo of the gun Wednesday morning.
Perez testified in front of the jury that the photo was of a gun similar to the one that Silich and her boyfriend had brought to the station. Perez said that when he interviewed Silich again at a later date, she mentioned that Blu had a black and silver gun at her house.
Perez also confirmed for Blu’s attorneys that he didn’t know the barrel size of the gun in the photo and didn’t know how many guns Silich and her boyfriend had. He also confirmed that Silich’s boyfriend had handed him the gun and that the two had entered the station’s lobby within seconds of each other. Perez also stated that he did not show the gun to Silich again after the gun was taken into custody.
Prosecutors also recalled Nate Knight, a crime scene technician who had testified earlier in the trial, to describe how a car allegedly belonging to Blu was processed for evidence and to identify some of the items from the car, such as a backrest for a motorcycle and a motorcycle windshield that appeared to fit Long’s motorcycle. A suitcase was also found in the car containing a pair of men’s jeans, among other clothing items, that appeared to have blood stains on them.
The jury was sent out of the courtroom again as attorneys argued over whether several receipts found in the car might be brought up at a later date in the trial. Olson ruled that Knight could testify that the receipts were found in the car but could not detail which stores or dates they came from.
Knight also described how Long’s motorcycle, which was missing its backrest and windshield, was processed for evidence and identified items such as an empty leather gun holster, a jacket and a pair of men’s pants. He also confirmed that investigators had attempted to place the backrest found in the car onto the back of the motorcycle and found that the item fit and the upholstery matched.
Knight also testified about the search of a second home at the trailer park, which appeared to be empty and uninhabited. Inside the home, investigators found three cartridge casings and a SIM card for a phone.
Duran asked Knight about the difference between blood spatter, a blood stain and blood transfer and if any of those could represent the blood on the jeans. Knight confirmed that the stain on the jeans was a blood stain and not blood spatter or transfer.
Duran also asked Knight how investigators got into the car. Knight said he didn’t have a key and couldn’t remember if anyone used a key to enter the car to search it.
“So the car was unlocked?” Duran asked. He asked Knight if he knew how long the car had been sitting in the mobile home park and how long it might have been unlocked before officers confiscated it. Knight said he didn’t know.
Duran also pointed out that investigators searched the second home about seven months after the murders.
The trial will continue Thursday.