By Managing Editor Teri L. Hansen
After nearly two hours of testimony the Judge John Klenda ruled against defense motions to dismiss charges and strike certain evidence in the case against Travis Belt.
Belt is preparing to face a jury of his peers. Belt, 27, of Little River, is charged with five felony charges including first-degree premeditated murder of 58-year-old McPherson resident Steven Carlson who was found dead in his home at 548 Eshelman in April 2017. The original charges were filed in 2017.
Belt’s attorney Randall Fisher called Bryan Weinbrenner to the stand. Weinbrenner is a licensed private investigator who has been working with Fisher on the case. He was retained by Belt’s previous attorney Kevin Loeffler.
Weinbrenner attempted to testify in regards to a video recording of an interview with a woman. Not long into the testimony, Assistant District Attorney Amanda Voth objected to the line of questioning as it did not relate to what was listed in the motion to dismiss. The motion was filed in November of 2019. Fisher stated that this was information brought to light after the filing. Klenda ruled in the State’s favor and the line of questioning went no further.
Weinbrenner then testified to interviews with multiple witnesses in the case, including Kevin Rubio and Stormy Nelson. His testimony reiterated the defense’s stance that Belt was not present during the time of Carlson’s murder and that other individuals were.
Voth argued that witness statements were unreliable and the witnesses themselves had testified to not being able to recall events of the night. Rubio was said to have given law enforcement a number of different accounts of what happened as well as claiming that drug use had impacted his memory.
Fisher stated that the evidence given to him by the state was in disarray and poorly labeled.
“It was like looking for a needle in a haystack,” Fisher said.
Voth stated that evidence is sent to the defense the same way it is received and that the defense needed to organize it. She also stated that perhaps defense needed additional counsel for the task.
Klenda ruled to deny the motion to dismiss though he did say, “I am concerned that the police department for whatever reason is not getting this information printed off in an orderly fashion.”
Proceedings moved on to motions to strike certain evidence. The evidence includes reports by law enforcement that had in fact been struck from the record when the case was brought up originally. Fisher argued that the prosecution was attempting to circumvent the court’s previous rulings, through refiling the case.
“You have simply rewarded them for defying your previous rulings,” Fisher said. “To reward the state for not following procedure has risks.”
Klenda did not see it in the same light, stating that at the time of the original filing, he ruled to strike in oder to give defense time to prepare a response, which they have now had time to do. Both motions to strike were denied.
During one argument, Fisher did bring up that a recent test showed that Courtney Randolph’s DNA was found at the scene. This was a subsequent test done after testimony during preliminary proceedings in which witnesses testified to Randolph stating that her DNA could be found at the scene.
In any case, a jury trial has been scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. on April 27 and is expected to continue through May 15.
“I realize this has been frustrating,” Klenda said. “