Odomes’ lifelong friend to testify against him

CCA looking to repeat as champions
August 24, 2011
Kathryn Vinning Barras
August 26, 2011
CCA looking to repeat as champions
August 24, 2011
Kathryn Vinning Barras
August 26, 2011

Prosecutors are expected to call a longtime friend of Derrick Odomes to the witness stand today as it attempts to bolster its case against the man accused of murdering a Thibodaux priest 19 years ago.

Odomes, 33, stands trial this week against a second-degree murder charge in the death of the Rev. Hunter Horgan III, whose bludgeoned and stabbed body was found in the St. Matthews Episcopal Church rectory early on Aug. 13, 1992.

Derrick Reed, Odomes’ “lifelong friend and acquaintance,” according to District Attorney Cam Morvant II, will be called forward today. Odomes confided to Reed that he killed Horgan, the district attorney contends.

Defense attorney Lynden Burton, based in New Iberia, objected Wednesday to the use of Reed as a witness prior to the jury being called into court Wednesday morning. Burton said Reed’s testimony would qualify as hearsay, and he raised concerns about the amount of time that elapsed before Reed came forward in 2007.

Reed’s testimony will be admissible because Burton can confront the concerns through cross-examination, presiding Judge John E. LeBlanc ruled.

Reed is currently incarcerated at the Louisiana State Penitentiary.

“I’m going to bring (Reed) in and ask him to tell you all the truth,” Morvant told the jury during his opening statement Wednesday.

The state has presented the entirety of its evidence against Odomes, Morvant said after yesterday’s proceedings. “The main point of emphasis is we have all of our evidence out that we want to produce,” he said, adding he thought the first day of the trial went well for prosecutors.

Reed will be the state’s final witness. Burton will follow by calling his witnesses, and if closing arguments conclude before 3 p.m., the case would be handed to the jury today, LeBlanc said.

When asked if there was any chance Odomes would testify, Burton responded, “We’ll have to wait and see.”

Dressed in a white shirt, black tie and black slacks, Odomes sat with his chin entrenched in his left palm while Morvant instructed the jury to use its “good, God-given common sense” when putting together the pieces of the puzzle during his opening statement.

“If you’re dealing with a 19-year-old puzzle, you may have a few pieces missing, but the picture is still there,” he told the 12-person jury.

Burton countered with a brief statement, telling the jury to “just listen to the evidence and lack thereof.”

Horgan was found face down in the church’s business office on Aug. 13, 1992, according to the testimony of Mike Martin, now a captain with the Assumption Parish Sheriff’s Office.

A sergeant with Thibodaux Police detectives at the time of the crime, Martin said Horgan’s wallet was missing and the lining of his left pant pocket was sticking out.

The blood spatter on the east and north walls of the office pointed to “medium velocity” strikes, Martin testified.

Horgan’s gray Toyota Camry was also missing. The vehicle was found that night on St. Charles Street, “a little over a mile from the church,” Martin said from the stand.

The driver’s seat was positioned as far forward as possible and the radio was tuned to FM 93.3, a station that played mostly rap music at that time, the officer testified. Odomes was

5 feet, 1 inch tall when he was 14 years old, Martin said, pointing out that Odomes would need to bring the seat forward if he drove the vehicle.

No forensic evidence linking Odomes to the Camry was presented before the jury.

State’s forensic evidence limited to two sets of matching fingerprints

On Wednesday, prosecutors linked Odomes to the church rectory with two matching fingerprints, the only forensic evidence the state will submit in the trial.

“After 19 years, that’s what we’ve got,” Morvant said.

The prints link Odomes to the church. This contradicts his denial of ever entering the building in a statement to detectives in May of 1998, according to Martin, who was one of the detectives to interview Odomes.

The first print, matched to Odomes’ left thumb, was found on a cold-water knob on the kitchen sink. Two fingerprint analysts with the Louisiana State Police Crime Laboratory confirmed it to be Odomes’ print and testified Wednesday.

The print from the sink’s knob was compared to a fingerprint ink card that contained Odomes’ prints.

After seeing the match, the crime lab requested detectives acquire a “major case fingerprint roll” from Odomes. This option offers a more detailed look at subject’s fingerprints and includes a palm print and the sides of fingers, according to the analysts’ testimony.

The second matching print was lifted from a folding table that was feet away from where Horgan’s body was found. It was compared to the case prints and confirmed by the same crime lab analysts to be a match of the second joint on Odomes’ left middle finger.

Also on the table, detectives discovered a smaller bloody fingerprint, about the size of a “dime,” according to Patrick Lane, a crime scene investigator with the state police crime lab. The bloody print was too small to produce a viable match, Lane testified.

Lane was called to the crime scene to collect physical evidence on the morning Horgan was found.

The blood on the table was isolated. Lane said the blood on the table likely came from a fingerprint because no other spatter was visible. It’s “not impossible,” but it would have taken “an unlikely combination of events,” for the blood to have been on the table before Horgan was assaulted, Lane testified.

The speck was confirmed to be blood through a coloration test before it was lifted, Lane said. That process, in addition to the time that has elapsed since the crime and the small quantity of blood available, made it impossible to pull a DNA sample from the blood, he said.

The state police crime lab did not conduct DNA tests in 1992.

Under cross-examination, Lane testified that a hair lifted off Horgan’s body at the scene was not tested for DNA.

In total, investigators lifted 33 sets of fingerprints from the crime scene, which includes the Camry, according to multiple state witnesses.

Fingerprints were crosschecked with suspects, an FBI database and elimination sets, which are provided by people who have permanent access to a crime scene.

Several sets of prints, the fingerprint analysts testified under cross-examination, did not match Odomes, the database or the elimination sets.

This includes fingerprints found on a filing cabinet in the office and the passenger’s door, windshield and rearview mirror of the Camry, among other sets, the fingerprint analysts testified.

She also agreed when Morvant asked if fingerprints are taken from all areas of a crime scene, even if it is a public building.

The business office is located directly to the left of the church’s main entrance. In order to reach the kitchen, one would have to walk down a hallway and through a meeting room, according to the building’s schematic design, which was shown to the jury.

Investigators found “90-degree” blood spatter randomly throughout the hallway, which indicates dripping, Lane testified.

In the sink, investigators discovered blood stains that had been diluted by water, which indicates the perpetrator made an attempt to “wash up,” Lane said.

Dr. Susan Garcia, the state’s first witness, testified that Horgan’s mortal wound could have been either blunt force trauma to the head, which caused a depression of the skull, or sharp force at the base of the neck, which severed the carotid artery.

Garcia conducted Horgan’s autopsy at the Jefferson Parish Forensics Lab.

The coroner, who has conducted “thousands” of autopsies, said she found defensive wounds on the minister’s forearms, hands and legs that exemplify him being a close-range victim of assault with a blunt and sharp object.

The state did not submit a murder weapon into evidence and is not expected to address the issue on the trial’s second day. Morvant downplayed the significance of presenting a weapon, and said he would not speculate what the weapon might have been.

“Rarely in homicide cases do we have a murder weapon,” Morvant said.

Odomes was sentenced to life in prison last week in LeBlanc’s courtroom under Louisiana’s habitual offender law. The sentence excludes the benefit of suspension or parole. Assistant District Attorney Kristine Russell successfully argued that Odomes had been convicted of six felonies.

In addition to being found guilty of intimidating a witness, a felony, the state presented the following felony convictions to the court: attempted simple escape, convicted in the 4th Judicial District in 1996; aggravated flight from an officer, convicted in the 17th Judicial District in 2000; unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, convicted in the 17th Judicial District in 2002; illegal possession of stolen things, convicted in the 32nd Judicial District in 2004; and identity theft, convicted in the 32nd Judicial District in 2004. The intimidation conviction was handed down in the 17th Judicial District earlier this year.

Odomes’ lifelong friend to testify against him