Stevenson trial continues

Details of death wrap up trial’s first week
Mike Corn
August 9, 2009
Hays Daily News
WaKEENEY — Testifying before a packed courtroom, District Coroner Lyle Noordhoek on Friday detailed the grisly death of an 85-year-old Gove County farmer.

Walter A. Stevenson’s immediate cause of death came when the bed of a grain truck fell on him, very nearly decapitating him, and causing massive loss of blood.

But, Noordhoek said, death was already imminent as a result of blows to the head, blows that he said had taken place before the truck bed fell on him.

It was because of those injuries, Noordhoek testified in Trego County District Court, that he listed the “manner of death as a homicide.”

Noordhoek was the second witness to testify on Friday in the first-degree murder trial against David A. Stevenson, the 61-year-old son of Walter Stevenson. The elder Stevenson died March 13, 2008, in a shed on the family farm in western Gove County.

Friday was the end of a full week in the proceedings, scheduled to last perhaps two weeks. Testimony is scheduled to resume Monday morning.

The trial against Stevenson was moved to WaKeeney because the Gove County Courthouse is too small. The newly remodeled Trego County Courtroom was nearly too small on Friday as more than 35 people sat in the audience, listening to testimony.

Despite warnings that graphic photos were coming, many of the people attending moved as the lights went out to ensure they would be able to see the screen that had been set up across the room from the 14-person jury.

Noordhoek testified that Walter Stevenson had received at least two blows to the head “that had an arrowhead shape.”

What the weapon might have been is uncertain, and prosecutor Steven Karrer, assistant attorney general, sought to show that it’s not uncommon for some cases to lack a murder weapon.

Noordhoek called those injuries “high impact injuries” that had not been caused when the truck bed fell on him.

“I believe those occurred prior to the injuries to the neck,” he said, a reference to the severe injuries that were caused when the truck bed came down, crushing Walter Stevenson’s wind pipe and tearing apart major arteries in the neck.

Noordhoek, in fact, used a hand-drawn sketch to show how skull fractures caused by the truck bed stopped at the site of the high-impact fractures.

“It tells me those fractures were here first,” he said of the high-impact injuries.

During his testimony, he distinguished the two types of fractures as high-impact and compression, that caused when the truck bed came down.

“Those high-impact blows preceded the compression blow by a period of time,” he said.

How long is uncertain, but he said it was long enough for bone marrow from the fractured skull to work its way through the bloodstream and come to rest in Walter Stevenson’s lungs.

Would he have been able to survive after the high-impact blows, Karrer wanted to know.

“I doubt he would,” Noordhoek said. “I believe he would have been incapacitated.”

Defense attorney Paul Oller sought to minimize damage from Noordhoek’s testimony and quizzed the coroner about the approximate time of death.

Ultimately, Noordhoek said death might have occurred at about 4 p.m,, not long after David Stevenson had returned home from Scott City.

Oller also sought to elicit testimony to support his contention that Walter Stevenson’s death was little more than a farm accident, suggesting the high-impact injuries might have been caused by grease zerks on the truck’s drive shaft.

Using one of the autopsy photos, Oller also wanted to know if extensive injuries to Walter Stevenson’s left arm might have been consistent with getting wrapped up in the truck’s drive shaft.

“Possibly,” Noordhoek said. “But I would have expected to see a lot of dirt or grease in a spiraling pattern and I didn’t see that.”

Testimony at murder trial involves money and land
Mike Corn
August 7, 2009
Salina Journal–Aug–8–2009
WaKEENEY — Witnesses at the first-degree murder trial of a man accused of killing his father testified Thursday that a series of changes in bank accounts by Walter Stevenson were designed to prevent David Stevenson from talking his mother, Bonny, into signing checks he had written on his father’s account.

David Stevenson has been charged with murdering Walter Stevenson, 85, in March 2008.

Bonny Stevenson, Walter’s wife, suffers from Alzheimer’s and now is in a nursing home.

Testimony on Thursday showed that when Bonny and David Stevenson went to a bank in Oakley to find out why a statement had not been sent out on a checking account, she learned Walter had been in the bank earlier and all but emptied a couple of joint checking accounts, creating a new account that was in his name only. His daughter, Peggy Ricker, however, also had access to the account.

As David and Bonny were leaving the bank, bank employee Elaine Wycoff testified that David Stevenson told her, “This will get ugly.” Wycoff said he didn’t seem angry.

Ricker testified that her father approached her about money going to her brother. She said her relationship with her father was “great,” but she wasn’t quite as upbeat about the relationship between her father and brother.

“It was OK, as long as you didn’t make him angry at you,” she said of her brother.

She also said she and her father discussed how the farm would be handed down.

“I said I’d take the grassland,” she said, “which was three (quarters). That would leave David with five of the cropland.”

When asked what David’s response to her father was, she said he told her he wanted it all.

Son goes on trial in 85-year-old father’s death, which was called an accident
Associated Press
August 3, 2009–soncharged,0,4378176.story
WAKEENEY, Kan. (AP) — The trial of a man charged with killing his 85-year-old father is scheduled to begin with potential jurors being taken from Gove County to Trego County.

Gove County residents will be transported to WaKeeney Monday for jury selection in the first-degree murder trial against David A. Stevenson.

Stevenson is charged with the March 13, 2008, death of his father, Walter Stevenson.

The trial has been moved from Gove County because the courthouse in Gove was considered too small to hold the trial.

The death initially was believed to be a farm accident, after Walter Stevenson’s body was found wedged between the bed of a truck and its frame. But unspecified discrepancies prompted investigators to revisit the case.

David Stevenson has pleaded not guilty.