Members of the families of Robert Haney, Terry Looney Jr. and Wesley Smith softly sobbed as images of their loved ones’ lifeless bodies were displayed on a large screen at the Jeremiah Barrett murder trial Monday at the Calaveras County Superior Court.
People’s exhibit 37, introduced by Deputy District Attorney Brad Jones, was a DVD of the crime scene taken by the Calaveras County Sheriff’s Department crime scene staff. “(The DVD) depicts what was seen that day,” said Calaveras County Sheriff’s Sergeant Rachelle Whiting, testifying as one of the first officers to arrive on the scene, where she remained for several hours.
Defense attorney Ken Foley objected to the presentation of the crime scene DVD, claiming that the presentation, coupled with the possibility that crime scene photos would also be shown during the trial, would be cumulative. Judge Tim Healy overruled Foley’s objection.
The DVD began at the entrance to 1405 Railroad Flat Road, showing the double-panel swinging gates at the main entrance to the driveway and, to the right, a section of cut barbed wire fence and a bent T-post, with tire tracks leading into the property.
According to Whiting, two bodies were first discovered approximately “30 to 50 feet from the gate.” Decedents Haney and Looney were found “with blood on the ground around their heads, face down and no sign of life.”
Within feet of the two decedents, Whiting noticed a “pile of dirt with pine cones and flies near the pile.” Removing a large “dirt clod in one piece, I saw what appeared to be an almost complete flattened brain.”
During the continued search of the crime scene, another body was found at the base of a pine tree near a propane tank “on his back, blood around his head, eyes open, obviously deceased.”
The people submitted more than 20 photos of the crime scene. In some photos, Whiting pointed to discolored areas stating they had been “identified as blood.”
Whiting clarified, “suspected to be blood … collected and sent to the Department of Justice.”
The people then admitted into evidence exhibit #44, a 45-minute interview with the defendant on the scene.
According to Foley, Barrett had given at least “five interviews to law enforcement during the investigation,” offering complete transparency and cooperation.
During the interview, Barrett claimed that he did not “hear any shooting until I shut the gate (behind me). Then I heard shots up on the ridge there. I could hear them come over the trees ... the shots fired comin’ right over the top of my head. I could hear it through the trees.”
According to Barrett, he witnessed some men running down the road from the top of the property “with armloads of marijuana. I was hollering, ‘I’m gonna shoot.’ I warned ‘em to stop, I was freaked out, man.”
After shooting the men, he moved the bodies from the drive “to get to my brother. I was out of shells when I saw he (Smith) was reaching for something in his pocket. I didn’t know what he was reaching for. I was still scared. I shot him (with the derringer) and drove up the hill.”
“After the whole thing went down, my brother and I smoked a joint,” he said, claiming to be still “freaked out.”
As questioning continued, Barrett clarified the first encounter.
“I yelled freeze … you know, stop. I was in fear for my life. When I hollered at them, they just kept running (toward him), I yelled freeze and they kept runnin.’”
Witnesses for the prosecution Tuesday included Bonnie Ano, owner of the property located at 1405 Railroad Flat Drive, as well as others. Jones would not reveal the names of additional witnesses who may be called forward in the future.
Foley said, “I’ll tell you all my witnesses.” He can begin to call defense witnesses as early as February 8.