CENTREVILLE, Mich. (WOOD) - What is and isn't admissible as evidence in the murder trial of Doug Stewart dominated testimony throughout Tuesday in the St. Joseph County courtroom of Judge Paul Stutesman.
Prosecutor John McDonough tried to admit into evidence a letter written by Venus Stewart to Doug asking for various items to be sent. McDonough claimed the letter from Venus goes along with testimony from Doug's alleged accomplice, Ricky Spencer, that Doug posed as a mailman to lure Venus outside her parents' Colon Township home on April 26, 2010.
She has not been seen since.
But defense attorneys Jeffrey Schroder and Kymberly Schroder objected, and Stutesman ruled the letter must be verified as having been written by Venus in order to be admissible.
However, Stutesman allowed into evidence "zip ties" found in Doug's truck during a police search in the days after Venus disappeared.
John Lucey, who works in the Michigan State Police crime lab, testified and talked about traveling to Newport News, Va., and processing a car and a truck. Lucey qualified as an expert witness, talking about his search of Doug's car in Newport News, Va. Lucey looked at and explained pictures of the inside of Stewart's car. Lucey found papers, clothing, jumper cables and a dolly -- like the type used for moving furniture -- in the car.
McDonough asked Lucey what he did to the potential blood stain found at the scene of the crime before it was analyzed. But Stutesman explained to the jury that blood tests on stains were inconclusive, and told the jury they got the end of the story before they got the beginning.
The blood testimony was provided by witnesses last week.
The first witness that took the stand Tuesday was Newport News homicide detective Richard Espinoza. He said he took Doug Stewart's DNA and palm prints, and he spoke to Stewart about his wife, Venus.
Espinoza said when he asked Doug for his boots, Doug said he would have to talk to his Michigan attorney. Espinoza said Doug told him he loved his wife, Venus.
The detective said Doug Stewart packed to leave his Virginia apartment on May 6, 2010, the day after they first spoke about Venus. Espinoza said when Doug Stewart packed to leave, all of his and the children's belongings were packed and a lot of women's clothing was left.
Then, both before and after lunch, MSP Sgt. Tom Flowers testified about fingerprints he examined and discovered on certain items. The defense objected and said the lab reports should not be admitted into evidence because they're hearsay.
Stutesman, after reading other case law, ruled the lab reports cannot be admitted into evidence, but experts, such as Flowers, can testify about them.
Flowers testified the fingerprint from Doug's left little finger was found on a tarp wrapper found outside Venus' parents home in Colon Township the day she disappeared.
By mid-afternoon, McDonough recalled Venus' father, Larry McComb to the stand. On Monday, a prosecution witness testified he saw McComb digging a hole on the side of the road around the time Venus disappeared.
McComb said he did, in fact, dig a hole "looking for his daughter."
He also said he, his wife, Therese and Venus' two daughters drove to Virginia to pick up Venus' clothes, his granddaughters' toys and Venus' car. Those items, McComb said, were all left behind at the Virginia apartment after Doug moved out.
McDonough then recalled Venus' mom, Therese McComb, because, he said, there were "a couple of questions I forgot to ask you the other day." She then said what her home phone number is and what Doug's cell phone number is.
Stutesman adjourned for the day just after 4 p.m. when defense attorney Jeffrey Schroder objected to Michigan State Police detective Sherie Martens testimony about a GPS map she helped another detective put together. The map purportedly plots out points between Virginia and Michigan where Doug may have been.
The judge gave Schroder the evening to make a written objection on why this should not be allowed.
Court is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. Wednesday.
24 Hour News 8 will continue to provide up-to-the-minute coverage from reporter Dani Carlson on CoverItLive and on a live stream on woodtv.com
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