Prosecution rests in Woody, Dehart murder trial

After three days of testimony, Kosciusko County Prosecutor Dan Hampton wrapped up his case with what might be his strongest evidence, body cam footage of Tara Thornburg, suffering a gunshot wound to the face, naming her attacker.

The footage from the police body cam of Syracuse Police Department officer Joe Denton was shown during the double murder trial of Brandon Woody and Kyle Dehart Wednesday.

Woody and Dehart each face two counts of murder connected to the shooting of Thornburg, 23, and her boyfriend, Joshua Knisley, 19, who died instantly after Woody allegedly shot him. Dehart also is charged with obstruction of justice. “Who did this to you?” Denton asked Thornburg. “Brandon Woody,” she said. Thornburg died the next the day in the hospital.

Corner Michael Wilson testified Thornburg died from a “shockwave effect” from the bullet wound. A shockwave effect is a slow degrading of the brain due to traumatic injury.

Woody’s defense attorney, Joe Sobek, raised the issue of whether the trauma may have altered Thornburg’s perception.  “Are you aware of  times when a head injury can effect a victim’s perception?” Sobek asked.

Denton replied he wasn’t an expert in head trauma science, but had received training in dealing with people with head injuries.

After the footage, Hampton announced the state would rest its case, paving the way for the defense to present its case Thursday morning.

Investigators testified they were made aware of some of the evidence by Thomas Hursey, a third man charged with murder in connection with the shootings. Hursey testified earlier that after a day of smoking pot and drinking beer in the “party room” at Dehart’s house, the group went to Thornburg’s residence to steal her marijuana, and Woody shot Thornburg after the situation escalated.

Hursey told police that Dehart discarded shoes, a gun and an ammo clip  leaving the scene, then burned the other evidence at Dehart’s parents’ home. On Tuesday, police presented evidence from the burn pile, claiming the grey trim found in the char was similar to a jacket Woody was known to be wearing.  Only the shoes were found by police, according to Kosciusko County Sheriff’s Department detective Joshua Spangle.

Defense lawyers attempted to cast doubt on his story, pointing to Hursey’s past criminal relationship, relationship with Warsaw Police Department detective Paul Heaton and history of being dishonest.

On Wednesday, Hampton called witnesses to the stand in an attempt to verify Hursey’s story.  Ashlyn Shepard, who has a child with Dehart, testified that she was “pretty sure” that she had seen the shoes in Dehart’s home, but couldn’t remember if she saw Dehart wearing them.

Shepard also faces an obstruction of justice charge in connection with the slayings. She admitted she lied to police and told them Dehart has been with her during the night of the shooting. She said she lied to police because she told her grandmother she was with Dehart at the time of the shooting.

Jacob Larkin, a friend of Dehart’s, testified that he was with the three men partying during they day. Larkin said he warned Dehart to cut ties with Woody a couple of weeks before the shooting. Larkin testified the group dropped him off at his house shortly before midnight, and that he lives about a quater of a mile from Thornburg.

Spangle testified that Dehart and Woody received no phone calls or texts from 10:32 p.m. Feb. 18 to 1:36 a.m Feb. 19, 2015, the day of the shootings.

The 911 call came in early in the morning on Feb. 19, 2015.

The defense is expected to begin its case this morning. Throughout the trial, defense attorneys Scott Lennox and Larry Hansen questioned investigators about the lack of any DNA or fingerprints that would tie Woody and Dehart to the scene.

Hansen raised questions about the shoes, pointing out the state lab only said the tread the size were similar to a print left at the scene, but couldn’t be positively identified.
Hansen grilled police on evidence they may have missed, or if they ever investigated anyone else other than Woody and Dehart.

Hansen pointed out that Larkin lived closer to the Thornburg residence than Dehart did.
Hansen asked Denton whether Thornburg had identified Dehart as part the scene. She did not.

The trial is scheduled to end on Friday.