Golden – The prosecution rested its case Saturday afternoon, six days into the retrial of Kenneth Botham Jr., charged with the murder of four Grand Junction residents six years ago.
A “smoking gun” never surfaced. But the prosecution did produce a small wirecutter which it calls the “fingerprints on the bodies.”
The wirecutter was used to snip the wire that bound the bodies of the victims, found in 1975 weighted down in the Gunnison River south of Grand Junction near Bridgeport. And the wirecutter, evidence showed, was owned by Botham.
Botham was charged and found guilty with the murders of his wife Patricia, 25, his neighbor Linda Miracle, 25, and Miracle’s sons, Troy, 5, and Chad, 3. The four were killed the night of Aug. 22, 1975.
Botham’s conviction was subsequently overturned by the Colorado Supreme Court, which granted him a retrial in part because pretrial publicity had prejudiced the jury, Botham is being retried in Golden District Court.
In testimony Saturday, Colorado Bureau of Investigation agent Cordell Brown repeated previous testimony that wire binding two of the victims, Botham’s wife and Linda Miracle, was cut by a small wirecutter found in the glove compartment of Botham’s Toyota Land Cruiser.
Brown’s boss at CBI, Claude Cook, told the jury Friday that he had reached a similar conclusion after 60 hours of microscopic work. Both criminologists had taken clips from the wire removed from the bodies and cut them with Botham’s wirecutter, finding the cuts matched those on the original wire ends.
Both CBI agents were grilled by Botham’s defense attorneys, who questioned their test methods. Defense attorney Lee Foreman chided Brown for using the word “fingerprint” when trying to simplify the wire similarities for the jury.
The wire also precipitated another clash over legal procedure.
Presiding Judge Winston Wolvington ruled the prosecution had not deliberately withheld evidence relating to the wire test. Rather, he said, it was simply a miscommunication and he denied a defense request for a mistrial.
During afternoon testimony, prosecuting attorney Jerry Jorgenson took the stand and read testimony from the record of the first trial delivered by blood expert Mariane Kamen, who has since died.
Kamen’s testimony-in-absence, and the rest of the prosecution’s case, related to the blood types of the victim’s blood found at the bridge near Bridgeport where the bodies were found, and blood found in Botham’s vehicle.
None of the blood was linked to the victims.
“We’re pleased,” Jorgenson later said. “We’ve done what we said we’d do: string together enough circumstantial evidence that when viewed in totality and in context, no longer is coincidence, but is clear evidence of guilt.”
Mesa County District Attorney Terry Farina, Jorgenson’s partner in the case, agreed, adding that the wirecutters were probably the most significant physical evidence the prosecution introduced.
“They’re his fingerprints on the bodies,” said Farina.
Defense attorney Norman Mueller remained unconvinced. “This isn’t a string of coincidences, it’s garbage,” he said.
Wolvington denied a defense motion to introduce the testimony of Patsy Murphy, Linda Miracle’s sister-in-law. Murphy had spent four hours with Miracle the day she was killed. But her testimony, which the defense said would include a statement that Miracle anticipated breaking up with her boyfriend Normal Wilhelm that night, was ruled irrelevant by Wolvington.
With the prosecution done, the defense quickly brought two couples to substantiate Botham’s alibi that he was in Ouray the night of the deaths.
Harold and Donna King, and Norman and Pauline O’Dell, all said they saw Botham as late as 9:45 p.m. Aug. 22, 1975, at Polly’s Motel and Campground in Ouray. Pauline O’Dell further testified she saw his vehicle the following morning.
The time is critical. The prosecution took pains to show that the victims were killed after 12:30 a.m. The jury will have to decide whether Botham could have driven 100 miles from Ouray to Grand Junction in time to commit the crime.
The defense also will challenge the prosecution’s expert witnesses and introduce their own physical evidence.
It is still unknown whether Botham will take the stand in his own defense.
Jorgenson said that could damage Botham’s case more than help. “By taking the stand, he’ll open up all of his testimony at the previous trial.”
That previous testimony included an admission that the wire which bound the bodies “may” have been his, noted Wolvington.
The defense lawyers said they haven’t decided whether to put Botham on the stand. But Jorgenson said it may not be their choice.
“Botham’s personality won’t let him feel like he’s had his day in court until he gets up to testify,” said Jorgenson.
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