The defense argued DNA evidence and weapon evidence point to an alternate suspect in the case of the 49-year-old man on trial for the suspected killing of two Greeley residents in February 2020.
Kevin Dean Eastman, 49, is on trial for first-degree murder after deliberation, tampering with deceased human bodies and tampering with evidence back, all charges he pleaded not guilty to in April 2021.
Eastman is facing accusations of killing his ex-girlfriend Heather Frank and well-known area musician Stanley Scott Sessions in February 2020. He is suspected to have cut Sessions’ throat at Frank’s home in Greeley before dumping his body in Pingree Park in Larimer County.
A snowplow driver located Session’s body, wrapped in plastic, near a smoldering log. His body was burnt significantly from the waist below.
Eastman is also accused of fatally shooting Frank twice in the chest nearly a week after Sessions’ murder. Her body was located in a pile of wood, similar to the way Sessions body was found, in a rural Kersey property where he was formerly employed.
On Monday, Troy Bonnell, the owner of Kersey property and employer of Eastman, spent all day on the stand as the only witness for the first day in the second week of the double homicide trial.
Prior to direct examination, Weld Judge Marcelo Kopcow advised the jury that Bonnell invoked his right to a fifth amendment, meaning he had a right to remain silent about a pending criminal case that stemmed from the 2020 homicide case.
Bonnell’s case involves charges in regards to the firearms that law enforcement found on his property after conducting a search in 2020. Due to his past criminal history, Bonnell is not allowed to legally own firearms, which is why he is facing that criminal action.
Throughout the day, Bonnell’s testimony mostly consisted of inconsistent statements — which Defense attorney Samatha Deveraux said proved his lack of credibility and showed the his bias. Bonnell used the phrase “I don’t recall,” on numerous occasions, which resulted in the defense pulling old interview footage and transcripts to refresh his memory.
The witness had multiple bouts of frustration and lashed out about not remembering details and being held to exact times and dates and specific names.
During direct examination, in particular, Deveraux addressed that, “I don’t know” was said often by Bonnell — a focus for her lengthy cross-examination that lasted for the majority of Monday’s trial.
Eastman’s employment inconsistencies
Weld County Deputy District Attorney Steve Wrenn questioned Bonnell about how he came to know Eastman. His testimony revealed the two first met when he hired him as a diesel mechanic in 2016. In 2020, he told Wrenn he hired him again.
While Bonnell told the court that Eastman was hired in 2016 and 2020, an interview with detectives on Feb. 2020 revealed he indicated Eastman was an employee a year before the homicides happened, Deveraux emphasized.
“I was definitely wrong on that one,” Bonnell said in reference to his past remark.
He further told the detective that Eastman only worked for him for four or five days in 2019, which didn’t align with the previous claims made in front of the jury. Through re-direct, Bonnell clarified by saying, “I believe so,” to Wrenn’s questioning that Eastman was employed more than one time within the past few years.
But on the date Eastman was expected to return to work at the Bonnell property, Feb. 4, 2020, he never showed up and Bonnell said he could not get ahold of him. Bonnell said he went searching for Eastman after a few days had passed, which entailed driving to Frank’s residence and claiming he didn’t see the last known vehicles he believed the two had driven.
Through his working relationship with Eastman is where Bonnell came to know Frank, but he indicated the two did not know each other very well.
Law enforcement initial interview vs. testimony inconsistent statements
Eventually, Eastman and Bonnell connected in person a week prior to the search of Bonnell’s property when the two made a drive to Fort Lupton together, according to Wrenn. On this trip, they discussed how Eastman wanted to do something special for Frank on Valentine’s Day, including proposing marriage.
Deveraux argued that Bonnell never brought up this encounter in which Eastman tagged along to Fort Lupton with the detectives investigating the case on Feb. 16. Once again, Bonnell had a conflicting statement on the stand when he said he didn’t remember seeing Eastman that week, but had previously mentioned to a law enforcement officer that he saw Eastman a week prior. Additionally, he testified under questioning from Wrenn that this occurred.
The story of Bonnell and Eastman’s drive to Fort Lupton allegedly came up during a December 2021 prep meeting with the district attorney’s office, where they informed Bonnell that his phone and Eastman’s phone data showed they made the trip together, according to Deveraux. Suddenly, after two years, Deveraux said Bonnell began remembering this drive with Eastman.
The lead detective, Jerry Porter, working hand-in-hand with the district attorney’s office on this case, made himself “readily available” in person and through email, text and phone calls to Bonnell, which received a “yes” response during Deveraux’s cross-examination. But Bonnell was unable to confirm if Porter gave him a “heads up” that evidence showed Eastman was on his property before Feb. 15 — which was an argument Deveraux tried to introduce.
Evidence that showed Eastman had more than one visit to the Kersey property in Febuary 2020 directly conflicted with past remarks that the suspect only arrived on his property on the evening of Feb.15. After the prep meeting, Bonnell switched his account to confirm that Eastman came to his property before Feb. 15, supposedly because the district attorney reported that phone data indicated this to be true, according to Deveraux.
When Eastman arrived unannounced at the Kersey property on Feb. 15, Bonnell informed prosecutors he was with a part-time billing employee, who was also his girlfriend. As a car pulled up to the property, Bonnell said he met the vehicle outside, which turned out to be Eastman requesting a place to put his tools.
During direct examination, Bonnell shared he let Eastman place tools in his garage, but he claimed he never looked inside the vehicle or saw Frank that night. In his interview with detectives, he said she could have been inside the vehicle, but he only spotted tools and clothes in the back of the car.
Around this time, Deveraux asked questions about the exact times of Bonnell’s interaction with Eastman outside his garage, creating an immediate frustration with Bonnell. During this questioning, he made a joke that he didn’t even want to say this incident happened two and a half years ago because he might be wrong.
“I don’t remember times exactly down to the minute,” he snapped.
Cross-examination exposed yet another inconsistency in Bonnell’s time as a witness. He told the jury Eastman asked to unload tools in his garage that evening, but the defense had evidence that showed Bonnell reported to the detectives this happened prior to the Feb. 15 date.
“I guess I had my dates screwed up,” Bonnell said on the stand.
But in re-direct, Wrenn confirmed that Feb. 15 was the date the tools were deposited and his girlfriend was present.
After he unloaded his belonging, Eastman went inside to talk with Bonnell and his girlfriend, according to the testimony. The last time Bonnell indicated he saw Eastman was right before he left his home, but Bonnell said he didn’t see Eastman leave the property because he went upstairs to share an “intimate and romantic” evening with his girlfriend.
Despite his Monday morning testimony to last seeing Eastman that night, a consistency error was pointed out by Deveraux, who displayed footage of him telling a detective interviewing him that Eastman was last seen on the morning of Feb. 16 — the same morning a search warrant was conducted at Bonnell’s home and he was taken into custody for questioning.
During the search warrant, Bonnell said he was placed in handcuffs and given clothes from his room by an officer due to still being in his underwear. The next stop for Bonnell was the Weld County Sheriff’s Office where he was interviewed for 6 hours by the two detectives.
Before police arrived, he told detectives he was sound asleep, but Deveraux found this to be false as phone records show he called Eastman’s phone a few minutes before 8:30 a.m. on an app called “Signal,” which is used to secretly make calls, according to the defense. But Bonnell didn’t have any recollection of making a call to Eastman or using an app called Signal.
At the time of the interview, he told detectives he didn’t know what Signal was, even though it was downloaded on his phone.
Bonnell’s phone became a topic in the conversation between him and the defense when Deveraux also brought up his alleged fabrications about having multiple phone numbers. He told detectives he only had one phone number, but evidence showed he brought a tracker phone after he was released from law enforcement custody.
Apparently, Bonnell’s ex-wife stated he used the phone so law enforcement couldn’t hear what he was saying about the case, but Wrenn objected to this as hearsay, which was sustained by Kopcow.
Additionally, Bonnell testified he only recalled discussing Frank’s whereabouts with the detectives interviewing him in the integration room, and he had no memory of anything said about Sessions’ disappearance. However a quick refresh of his memory through the interview footage showcased that Bonnell was brought in for investigation because of a missing Sessions.
Bonnell claimed he did not know Sessions during his testimony and during his Feb. 16 interview with detectives.
One of the detectives advised Bonnell that he did not want to be “tied up in this,” because Eastman was facing first-degree murder charges. Throughout his interrogation, the detectives advised Bonnell multiple times that they “definitely” weren’t looking into him as a suspect and that only Eastman was suspected as a culprit for Sessions’ murder.
“Been told that for two years until now,” Bonnell fired back to Deveraux after she brought up the fact he was not seen as a suspect in this case.
Throughout the cross-examination, Kopcow and Deveraux had to remind Bonnell to answer “yes” or “no” to questions and to halt his answers when there was an objection. Bonnell’s demeanor seemed frustrated, distressed, confused and angry about his lack of exact memory and conflicting statements from over two years ago, as well as the questioning from the defense.
Overall, Bonnell, in regards to his unknown answers and inconsistent comments, indicated he didn’t document every conversation he had with Eastman, every time they talked or he came to the house, every time he fired his pistol and other factors the defense tried to hold against him, Wrenn clarified in re-direct.
Bonnell’s DNA linked to Frank’s body
Late in the interview with police, they informed Bonnell of the body found on his property. But Bonnell testified to having no involvement in Frank’s death or knowledge of her body on the property, according to Wrenn’s examination.
DNA samples were voluntarily collected, as well as a check for gunshot residue, from Bonnell at the sheriff’s office, Wrenn pointed out. A pack of cigarettes found on Frank’s body matched Bonnell’s DNA, but he told prosecutors he didn’t know how it got there.
Deveraux confirmed Bonnell doesn’t and hasn’t had an explanation for this DNA evidence. In cross-examination, Deveraux said the interview footage showed that detectives told Bonnell he needed to figure out an explanation or he could be painted as a suspect.
When Wrenn questioned Bonnell about the cigarettes, he said he was not a smoker but his ex-wife was. A previous remark by Bonnell said his wife smoked the same brand found on Frank’s body, which Wrenn highlighted to the court.
Firearms and shell casings
Three guns — a shotgun, .22 rifle and pellet gun — were located inside Bonnell’s home, he said Monday morning. Another firearm, a .22 caliber revolver, was located in his garage on top of his black toolbox. On the stand, Bonnell said he last saw the gun when he used it to shoot at coyotes as a scare tactic to get them away from the small farm animals living on the property, which he claimed he did so a few days before he saw Eastman on Feb. 15.
Prior to being taken into custody for interviewing on Feb. 16, Bonnell’s body was searched by law enforcement who found .22 shell casings in his pant’s pocket — a match to the bullets that killed Frank. However, Bonnell’s pants were located in his room and given to him by an officer during his home search. Despite not having an answer to where the casings came from, he referred back to the attempts to scare coyotes away with gunshots.
Along with shooting at coyotes, Deveraux addressed there were multiple explanations made by Bonnell for the bullets in his pocket, including target practice and shooting at prairie dogs. The timing of when he last shot his gun was also inconsistent with his past reports.
How close were Eastman and Bonnell?
On a few occasions in Bonnell’s testimony, he said he and Eastman just had a working relationship and he didn’t know him that well, but Deveraux found a contradiction in these remarks. During the interrogation interview, Bonnell had a long list of information to give detectives about the suspect, including knowledge that Frank cheated on him, that he carried a journal and that had past head trauma, medical conditions and a rough upbringing.
Many times during Deveraux’s questioning, Bonnell said he didn’t recall certain aspects about Eastman, but a quick review of footage from the interview showed he made those statements to detectives. For instance, said he didn’t remember telling law enforcement that Eastman was abused in the past, but in the interview played for the jury, he said Eastman was physically beaten as a child.
Oftentimes, throughout the process of Deveraux’s cross-examination, Bonnell frustratedly said, “roll it” in reference to the footage, because he didn’t recall his former remarks during his interrogation about the case.
“I don’t recall half of this, but clearly I said it,” Bonnell said after a video from the interview played.
In redirect, Wrenn asked if Bonnell considered the two to be friends, and he said yes, but “no way” would he help cover up anyone’s murder for Eastman.
Bonnell’s past criminal history
Prior to Feb. 2020, Bonnell attested to being convicted of two theft-related felonies. However, the defense brought up seven-plus convictions — most of which he said he didn’t recall.
He served two years in prison starting in 2013 and paid $80,000 in restoration, Bonnell angrily told the defense. But Deveraux had questions as to why he is just now being charged for possession of a weapon by a previous offender when he told detectives back in 2020 that he owned three guns.
In cross examination, she emphasized that the district attorney’s office is offering Bonnell immunity to testify in this trial, which is the same agency that is in control of his plea bargain and charges.
Bonnell indicated that the district attorney’s office never gave him any deals for his testimony, and he only spoke to Wrenn at the prep meeting, which was only an attempt to dig for all the details because it was important to have the truth before the trial, Wrenn also clarified.
Bonnell will return to the stand 8:30 a.m. Tuesday in Weld District Court.
https://www.greeleytribune.com/2022/07/12/i-dont-recall-half-of-this-defense-examination-reveals-inconsistent-statements-by-alternate-suspect-in-double-homicide-case/ Defense examination reveals inconsistent statements by alternate suspect in double homicide case – Greeley Tribune