By Managing Editor Teri L. Hansen
On Nov. 5, Randall E. Fisher, attorney for Travis Belt, filed a motion to dismiss all the charges against Belt in the April 14, 2017 death of Steve Carlson. The motion stated that the State concealed and withheld material evidence in the case. “Specifically, the State has engaged in misconduct prejudiced the rights of the defendant.”
Belt, 27, of Little River, is facing five felonies in the case including first-degree premeditated murder. Carlson, 58, of McPherson, was found dead in his home at 548 Eshelman in April 2017. Officers entered the residence upon seeing signs of a break-in. Carlson was found with lacerations to his neck, his pockets turned inside out, and the body was surrounded by a pool of blood, credit cards and what appeared to be a bread knife. Prosecutors said Belt used Carlson’s truck to shoplift at Walmart the day before Carlson’s body was found.
This is the second time Belt will face charges relating to this case. The original charges were filed in 2017. A jury trial was scheduled for April 23, 2019. However, the State dismissed the case without prejudice, stating that they wanted time to allow for further testing of DNA found at the scene. On June 19, 2019, the State refiled the case with the complaints being the same as the original filing.
Fisher’s motion to dismiss stated that on July 10, 2019, the State produced new evidence that the defense had not been privy to previously. “Some of the evidence had been withheld by the State for more than two years,” the motion said. Some of the material referenced include interviews and witness statement summaries.
One such summary was entered into the McPherson Police Department computer on May 16, 2017. However, it was not accessed and printed off until July of 2019. This summary contains statements from a witness in the case stating that three people were involved in the murder of Carlson and Belt was not among the three.
Another summary with an unknown input date was accessed on July 9, 2019. This summary of another witness statement stated that while Belt may have been there, he was not involved in the murder and that a female was involved.
The motion to dismiss included many such statements from various witnesses claiming that not only was Belt innocent of the murder but that certain people were responsible for Carlson’s death and that the perpetrators openly spoke about the crime and bragged about the details of Carlson’s death.
Fisher stated in the motion “First, why did these reports sit in a police department computer for more than two years and were never given to the State or defense counsel? Why were these reports never produced to defense counsel throughout the entire time the first case was pending and dismissed, and only after a second case was filed? What happened to suddenly cause these reports to be opened and printed out July 2, 2019?”
At this time, the prosecution has until Dec. 6 to respond to the motion to dismiss. A pretrial hearing is scheduled for Dec. 10. The Buzz will continue to monitor the progression of the case and report on new developments.