According to witness, Thomas Hursey, Brandon Woody threatened his life and his family while they were in jail in September.
“He told me if I took the stand, myself, my daughter and my mother would disappear,” Hursey testified Monday.
Kosciusko County Prosecutor Dan Hampton said the threat was backed up by Hursey’s cell mate, who heard the threat.
Woody and Kyle Dehart are on trial in Kosciusko Circuit Court. They are charged with murder in connection with the deaths of Tara Thornburg and Joshua Knisley in Syracuse in February 2015.
Hursey also is charged with murder in the case and faces a separate trial. Woody and Dehart are being tried jointly this week.
During the first day of the trial on Monday, Hursey testified he told police what happened, and led police to the shoes that he said Woody threw out the window of the car driving from the scene.
Hursey testified that Woody shot Thornburg and Knisley, when he, Woody and Dehart attempted to steal Thornburg’s marijuana. Hursey said when Thornburg started to fight for her marijuana back, Woody pulled out a gun and threatened her. “‘Don’t do this,’ she screamed,” Hursey said.
In a 911 call played in the court, Thornburg said, “Please help me … Brandon Woody shot my boyfriend and knocked me out.”
Police body camera footage shown in the court showed police finding the slain body of Knisley, causing audible gasps in the courtroom.
During his opening statement, Hampton told that jury, “She heroically lived long enough to identify her killer. Tara did not deserve to die.”
Hursey detailed how they drove away, burned the clothes and the shoes in the back yard of Dehart’s parents’ house.
Woody’s attorney, Scott Lennox, attacked Hursey’s credibility, pointing to his past criminal record and his relationship with Warsaw Police Department Detective Paul Heaton. Lennox referenced a transcript of an interview with Heaton, in which Hursey asked for the mother of his baby to be arrested because she was using drugs. Lennox said Hursey had four pending felonies, some dating back to 2013. Hursey asked for help with charges in exchange for testimony about Woody and Dehart.
Hursey replied that he hoped for a lighter sentence, but didn’t expect it. “I asked to not be charged in this case and I was,” he said.
Lennox grilled Hursey on why he didn’t come forward with the information sooner and questioned his honesty after Hursey admitted he lied to police, initially claiming he was never at the Thornburg residence. “I was prepared to take the truth to the grave with me,” he said.
Lennox pointed to Hursey’s success as an informant as evidence he was a good liar. Hampton countered, that it showed Hursey’s information could be trusted.
Hursey testified that he made no deal with Hampton in exchange for his testimony.
Dehart’s lawyer, Larry Hansen, questioned Hursey on why he didn’t call the police until he came under suspicion himself. Hursey admitted he told police after he knew they could place him at the scene. “If I did the right thing and told the truth, my life would be over,” he said.
During his opening statement, Hansen said there was no physical evidence linking Dehart to the scene, and the state’s entire case was built around Hursey, who is an admitted liar.
The trial continues today and is scheduled to last until the end of the week.