FLORENCE — One juror was released from service by Judge Robert Carter Olson in the Demian Blu trial Wednesday due to hardship circumstances.
The length of the trial was extended after one of the prosecutors came down with a mild illness last week and the trial was delayed by a couple days due to COVID protocols that prevent people who are ill from entering the courthouse. The trial was expected to end Tuesday but is now expected to wrap up by the end of this week.
Attorneys for Demian Blu also finished questioning Clint Wendelschafer, Blu’s co-defendant in a trial involving the 2016 death of an Apache Junction couple Wednesday.
Blu, 44, is on trial in connection with the 2016 deaths of Keith Long and Renae Gardner. The couple were killed in their home in an Apache Junction trailer park. Blu, Wendelschafer, 34, and Nicholas Douglas, 45, of San Tan Valley have all been charged with the deaths of the couple.
Wendelschafer took a plea agreement in December 2019 and agreed to testify against Blu and Douglas.
On Wednesday, Blu’s attorneys continued to point out discrepancies between statements Wendelschafer had made to investigators and attorneys prior to the trial and statements he had made during the trial. They also questioned whether he still held any loyalty to the Loose Cannons motorcycle club.
Wendelschafer stated that he had held some loyalty to the motorcycle club at one point but no longer did. He confirmed that some women who were girlfriends of Loose Cannon members had placed money on his jail account before he signed a plea agreement. He also confirmed that he was inducted into the club a year after the date that Long and Gardner were killed.
He also agreed that information that he had given investigators changed over time. Blu’s attorneys pointed out that how he had learned about, and who was responsible for Long and Gardner’s deaths, changed at least three times before the trial. Now he was saying that Blu had told him in the truck the night of the murder that he had shot the couple.
Blu’s attorneys also pointed to a series of callous memes and comments Wendelschafer had made and then deleted on Facebook that may have been references to the murder.
During mid-morning and lunch breaks for the jury, attorneys for both sides argued about the possibility of allowing several clips of audio from jail calls made by Blu before and during the trial into the courtroom.
Blu’s attorneys argued that the audio from the jail calls had been disclosed late and should not be allowed into the case because they had not had sufficient time to review it. The few calls they had been able to review, they had objections to allowing because some of the topics discussed in the calls were either prejudicial to Blu or had no relevance to the case.
Prosecutors argued that some of the calls had recently been found because Blu had allegedly been using another prisoner’s identification number to place calls and that some of the information in the calls was relevant to the case.
The case is expected to continue Thursday with additional testimony from Pinal County Sheriff’s Sgt. Michael Benedict.