Jury in Kennedy Murder Trial Shown Key Pieces of Evidence Monday
Among those pieces of evidence were two pairs of shoes – a pair of women’s winter boots and a pair of men’s Air Jordan sneakers – found at a house owned by Penny McCoy at 609 Hillside Avenue, as well as clothing found in the area of Pioneer Cemetery near Otter and 15th Streets.
Pennsylvania State Police Sergeant Lee Bunyak, who was a corporal at the time of the alleged crime stationed as the Crime Unit Supervisor at the Franklin Barracks in Seneca, Pa., testified that Amanda Cypher, who is also accused in taking part in the crime, told police in late December 2017 (December 22) where to find the clothing items in the area of Pioneer Cemetery near Otter and 15th Streets in Franklin.
Cypher is not currently on trial but is scheduled to testify for the prosecution against Kennedy.
“An interview with Amanda Cypher provided us information to other locations (to look for evidence),” Bunyak said.
Those items were shown one-by-one to the jury by Franklin Police Detective Kevin Saragian, the lead investigator of the alleged crime, and included 10 items found in a hollowed out tree stump and four items found nearby the hollowed out tree stump under a fallen tree.
The items shown that were found in the hollowed out stump included dark gray Nike sweatpants, a pair of men’s gray Hanes underwear size large, a black blanket with a white leopard pattern with suspected blood stains, a Columbia size small zippered sweatshirt/jacket with what Saragian described as approximately 25 stab holes in it, a size large Fruit of the Loom long underwear pants with suspected blood on it, a size large white long underwear shirt with suspected blood, a Shop & Save t-Shirt size large, a 2XL size t-shirt and a red size small t-shirt with what Saragian described as approximately 20 stab holes in it.
The items found under the fallen tree included a pair of women’s jeans size 7, a pair of men’s jeans size 34-30, three sections of wet wipes, and two pieces of cut cord that were white in color.
A white cord – described to be a broken cell phone cord – was also found by Bunyak and Franklin police officer Aaron Campbell at the dump site on Waterworks Road where Baker’s burned body was found on the same late December 2017 day.
Bunyak said that Cypher, during her interview, said Baker may have been bound by a white cord.
“As soon as she said that, I remembered seeing it (the cord) at the scene (in October – the crime is alleged to have occurred Oct. 27, 2017),” Bunyak said. “I was shocked it was still there (in December), but it was.”
Bunyak said because the area where Baker’s body was found is a “dump” area, he didn’t think much about the cord when he saw it in October.
Campbell testified to finding a “cut phone cord, white in color” during the late December trip to Waterworks Roads.
“We were taken there by somebody who said it (the cord) should be there,” Campbell said.
Additionally, Saragian testified that police officers also discovered a rock between the dump site on Waterworks Road and Pioneer Cemetery
where Baker’s body was discovered.
“There was a large rock,” Saragian said. “We collected it.”
When asked by defense attorney Robert Kinnear to describe where the rock was found, Saragian said it was probably a quarter to a half mile from where Baker’s body was found.
“It looked like it had been there for a while,” Saragian said.
Kinnear then asked if two pieces of evidence – a rock and a frying pan – were sent to the state police crime lab in Erie for DNA testing.
(Prosecutors allege that Kennedy used the rock to beat Baker before burning her body and also beat her with a frying pan found at 1313 New Street, where the crime is alleged to have started.)
“No sir,” Saragian responded.
Saragian, under questioning for Venango County District Attorney Shawn White, said that part of the reason the rock, which he described to be slightly smaller than a basketball and weighing around 30 pounds, wasn’t sent for testing was because of how long it had been “out in the elements.”
“It had been out in the elements for over two months,” Saragian said. “That is why it wasn’t sent up (to the lab).”
Kinnear asked if it was possible that despite it being “out in the elements for two months” if there might still have been tissue or other evidence on it.
“It’s possible,” Saragian said.
Kinnear also asked if because neither the rock nor the frying pan was sent to the lab, there is no forensic evidence on either of the alleged weapons.
“That’s correct,” Saragian said.
During his testimony, Campbell talked about going to 609 Hillside Avenue to the residence of Penny McCoy on the night of October 27, 2017. It is alleged that Kennedy and Cypher went to McCoy’s residence to clean up after allegedly committing the crime.
At the McCoy residence, police were given consent by McCoy to search the residence, and she even told police where Kennedy and Cypher had gone in the house, Campbell said.
“We were looking for items left behind by Amanda Cypher and Richard Kennedy,” Campbell said.
Campbell testified that a pair of “female-looking boots,” which were later described to be size eight when they were shown to the jury, were found with “glistening” drops on them in one of the upstairs bedrooms.
Then, in another bedroom, a trap door to an attic was opened, and on a ledge a pair of “Air Jordan-like” shoes were “observed” with blood on the shoes and a shoelace. The shoes were determined to be size 12 when shown to the jury.
Saragian testified that blood samples from the Air Jordans, as well as the left shoelace, were sent to the crime lab.
BUNYAK GIVES FURTHER TESTIMONY
Bunyak also testified on a couple of different subjects including finding a vehicle known to be used by Baker and owned by Greg Militello, who was living at the house of Baker’s father, Doug, where Tausha was also living, at the time of her death, as well as a cord that prosecutors say could have been used to tie up Baker.
Bunyak talked about police finding a vehicle on Monday, October 30, 2017, on Elk Street in Franklin that he described as mid-size SUV that he believed to be a Ford Edge.
The vehicle was towed to the state police barracks in Seneca, Pa., and Bunyak testified to finding a red gas can in the back seat, as well as what was believed to be blood smears on the door frame and what was believed to be blood in various portions of the back seat of the car including on the handle that is used to fold the seat down.
The gas can that was found was entered into evidence, and Bunyak showed the jury where blood was found on the handle(s) of the can.
Bunyak also testified to an interview with Amanda Cypher, who is also accused in the crime but is being tried separately.
DEFENSE TRIES TO ALLEGE OTHER INVOLVED
Kennedy’s defense team started to allege others were involved in the crime besides Kennedy and Cypher.
Kinnear tried to ask Bunyak if he was aware of a statement from McCoy that alleged that a man who was the primary renter of the house at 1313 New Street where it is alleged the crime started, helped dispose of the body.
But, White objected on the basis that it was hearsay, and Judge Oliver Lobaugh agreed.
Kinnear tried a different take and asked Bunyak if he had received information on other suspects.
“No,” Bunyak said in respect to “suspects” but “Yes,” people had information. I don’t remember her (McCoy) telling me of someone helping dispose of the body.”
Kinnear showed Bunyak McCoy’s written statement, and Bunyak said that was the first time he had seen it.
On cross-examination of Campbell, Kennedy’s other lawyer, James Miller, asked him if he had obtained information on any participants having “cleaned or moved” evidence.
“Yes,” Campbell said.
Miller then asked Campbell to confirm that those “participants” were not charged in this case.
“Yes,” Campbell said confirming the participants weren’t charged in this case.
White then asked Campbell if it was not true that the interview that was being talked about occurred with Donny Lawrence and was in specific reference to things that had taken place at 1313 New Street, which Campbell confirmed was the case.
DEFENSE QUESTIONS WHY CYPHER WASN’T TREATED THE SAME AS KENNEDY
In cross-examination of Saragian, Kinnear asked, if police had information that alleged that both Cypher and Kennedy were seen on Waterworks Road and further information that Cypher had been involved in the alleged crime, why his client (Kennedy) had a lot of pictures taken of him the night of the alleged crime by the police but only a few pictures were taken of Cypher.
“I have no idea,” Saragian said.
White then asked Sarigian if he had noticed any injuries to Cypher’s hands during questioning on October 27.
“No, sir,” Saragian said.
White then asked if Sarigian had noticed anything about Cypher’s appearance.
“She looked like someone who hadn’t slept in a while,” Saragian said. “She had dark circles under her eyes.”
White asked Sarigian if he had noticed any injuries to Cypher, and Saragian said he recalled something on her chin.
White then asked if the lack of any noticeable injuries was the reason not more pictures were taken.
“I’m not sure there was anything else to photograph,” Saragian said.
Kinnear then showed Sarigian and the jury photos of Cypher taken on October 27/28, 2017, and asked Sarigian about a red mark on Cypher’s face.
“Does that look fresh or like a scar?” Kinnear asked.
“It doesn’t look like a scar,” Saragian said.
Kinnear then asked if it could be a scratch.
“Possibly,” Saragian responded.
Kinnear also asked some questions about what else was found when Franklin Police served a second search warrant on the 1313 New Street house in the week after the alleged crime took place when a tooth, alleged to belong to Baker, was found.
“I remember us taking a couple of cell phones,” Saragian said.
Kinnear then asked if there was anything in the garbage that the officers took, but Saragian said he didn’t recall taking anything.
The defense attorney then followed up by asking if the Franklin Officers had looked in the washing machine, which residents of the house – Umstead and Mark Daniels – said was running when they came downstairs the day of the alleged crime.
“I don’t believe we did during the second search warrant,” Saragian said.
Kinnear said that with that being the case, to the best of Saragian’s knowledge, then nothing had ever been recovered from the washing machine by either the state police nor the Franklin Police.
“I believe so (that nothing was collected),” Saragian said.
White asked Saragian if he would have had any reason to look into the washing machine when searching the house on the second search warrant.
“That wasn’t our primary reason for being there,” Saragian said.
Kinnear asked Sarigian about a written statement made by McCoy that was dated October 26, 2017, which would have been a day before the alleged crime took place.
“I don’t believe it was written on that date,” Saragian said.
Around 2:55 p.m., court was sent into recess with the expectation that when it resumed at 3:15 p.m., the jury would be shown some photographs on a projector screen in Courtroom 2 – the trial was held in Courtroom 2 on Monday because of jury selection for another trial taking place in Courtroom 1.
But, after the jury returned, Lobaugh didn’t immediately return to the courtroom. When he did, he said he was sending the jury home for the day at approximately 3:45 p.m. While it wasn’t said, it was implied that there might have been some issues with showing items on the projector screen.
The trial is set to resume at 9:00 a.m. Tuesday in Courtroom 1.
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