CENTREVILLE, Mich. (WOOD) - Six witnesses took to the stand in rapid fire succession Monday morning, as the Doug Stewart murder trial, now in its third week, sped through the day and adjourned by mid-morning.
Last week, the prosecution brought a great deal of circumstantial evidence implicating him in the murder of his 32-year-old estranged wife, Venus, in April 2010.
On Monday morning, the prosecution admitted phone records into evidence and sent six people to the witness stand.
Lena Powell talked about a man who she saw near her home who was "soaking wet" in April 2010. She said she saw the man before she knew Venus disappeared.
Mark Thomason testified he also saw the "soaking wet" man. Thomason said Venus' cousin called him and said the "soaking wet" man might have something to do with Venus' disappearance. Thomason said the "soaking wet" man acted like he "did something wrong." Thomason said he didn't see the "soaking wet" man in the courtroom Monday morning but there is a "similarity." Thomason did not pick out Doug Stewart as the "soaking man" he saw.
Frederick Brandt testified, saying he saw Venus' parents digging a hole by the side of the road.
Brian Wages then took the stand. He said in April 2010 he saw a car with a Virginia license plate driving in front of him. The driver of that car wouldn't look at him as he passed. Wages said he saw a woman in the passenger seat with her head up against the window with something that looked like "a sleeping bag." Wages said he didn't think much about the slow-moving car at first, but after hearing about Venus' disappearance he contacted Michigan State Police.
Tony Duke testified he knows Venus from when they attended high school together. Duke said he saw someone who looked like Venus and her husband at a Michigan Dollar General store before he heard she disappeared. Duke says he didn't talk to the person, and can't be sure it was Venus. He said he realized the man he saw may have been Venus' husband, Doug, after seeing news reports.
Court then stopped for the day around 10 a.m. and will resume Tuesday morning.
The prosecution is expected to wrap up their side of the case on Wednesday. Attorneys Jeffrey Schroder and Kymberly Schroder are expected to begin their defense after that.
Outside of testimony from Doug's alleged accomplice, Ricky Spencer, the prosecution's case has relied on cell phone and computer records to tie Doug into an elaborate plot spanning four states.
Doug lived in Virginia, as did Venus until she moved out and went to stay with her parents in Colon Township, Mich.. Spencer lives in Delaware. And the prosecution maintains Doug purchased items used in the murder at a Walmart in Ohio.
Blood, DNA, cell phones, tire treads and GPS data were introduced by St. Joseph County prosecutor John McDonough last week. But the forensic scientists did not directly connect Doug with any of it.
At one point last Friday, when the jury was not in the courtroom, Judge Paul Stutesman said, "We've been introducting a lot of evidence without a positive result at this point."
This week, more scientists are expected to testify. Though the lead investigator in the case, Mike Scott of the Michigan State Police, has been on the stand twice already, it's only been to verify testimony given by others.
Scott is expected to lay out their case against Doug when he takes the stand, perhaps later this week.
Stewart is represented by the husband-wife team of Jeffrey and Kymberly Schroder.
Monday's hearing should be a half-day.
On Saturday, the Michigan State Spartans will be taking on the Ohio State Buckeyes for the Big Ten College Football title. On Friday, fans began gathering in Indianapolis for the big game.
Two Kalamazoo men are in jail after Kalamazoo officers found them with money stolen from Sunny Mart Friday afternoon.
Two people were taken to the hospital after one vehicle crossed the center line, causing a head-on crash in Ada Township Friday night.