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Lab holding evidence in murder case; trial date nears
Aug 8, 2014 - By Eric Blom, Staff Writer
Local prosecutors say the State Crime Laboratory has delayed returning evidence and analysis in a Fremont County murder case.
The setback could spell complications for both prosecutors and defendants in the case.
"I literally cannot get my evidence back from the crime lab," County Attorney Michael Bennett said during a hearing Thursday.
The trial date for the defendants, Delight Estelle Sunrhodes, Craig Brian C'Bearing and George Jr. Littlethunder III, is Sept. 15.
Without all of the evidence or analysis, either side could be left without facts significant to its case, and receiving the information shortly before the trial would leave both sides little time to prepare.
District Court Judge Norman E. Young suggested the defense attorneys wanted to hire their own experts after reviewing the crime lab's reports. If so, the judge said, the lawyers may want to push back the trial date.
Sunrhodes, 30, and Littlethunder, 29, both of Arapahoe, are charged with second-degree murder and C'Bearing with accessory before the fact to second-degree murder in the March death of Richard Longsoldier. All three charges carry a penalty of 20 years to life in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.
"We're not trying to sandbag (defense) counsel nor are we trying to create a need for a continuance," Bennett said. "We are in plea negotiations, but without all of the facts and evidence of the case we've run aground."
Young showed no inclination to postpone the trial just based on the difficulties with the crime lab.
"The state's the one that brought the charges, they have the burden of proof," he said.
Public defender Devon Peterson said Sunrhodes did not want to delay the trial.
"We'll just see what happens when the evidence comes in," he said. "If it comes in, it comes in."
If no defendant called for a continuance, prosecutors still could.
The judge, however, indicated prosecutors would have a tough time selling him on the idea.
He would "at a minimum" like to have a crime lab official testify in a hearing about why the facility could not process the evidence within the time frame the judge set for the trial, Young said.
Investigators say Sunrhodes and Littlethunder used the claw end of a framing hammer to bludgeon Longsoldier to death in a bedroom in Longsoldier's trailer in the Cozy Home Trailer Park in Riverton.
C'Bearing, prosecutors believe, started a fight with Longsoldier that the other defendants joined, and C'Bearing provided the hammer the other two used.