MARQUETTE – The murder trial of Jacques Earl Carpenter continued Friday as Marquette County Prosecuting Attorney Matthew Wiese called to the stand a detective sergeant from the Michigan State Police forensic laboratory in Marquette.
Carpenter, 53, has been charged with open murder in the shooting death of 29-year-old David Scott Meyer Jr. on June 8, 2012. Carpenter does not deny shooting and killing Meyer at the Ishpeming residence at 409 North Second St., where both men were living, but has claimed he did so in self-defense after Meyer attacked him with a large hunting knife.
Detective Sgt. Jay Peterson, a latent fingerprints expert for the Marquette Forensic Lab, took the stand for several hours Friday to describe in detail what the MSP forensic team found when called to Carpenter’s home after the shooting, as well as the test results from laboratory work done later.
Peterson said “other than the deceased body,” his team saw no signs of an altercation in Carpenter’s home, which Peterson said was fairly clean and neat compared to some of the other scenes to which he’s been dispatched.
Peterson also echoed previous testimony from other officers on the scene who said they noticed an overwhelming smell of bleach in the house. Peterson said he determined the bleach smell to be coming most strongly from a flannel shirt draped across a pink recliner in front of the wall from which police recovered a .40-caliber bullet.
He described the flannel shirt as being “saturated” in bleach and stained with blood. He said upon lifting the shirt, he saw “quite a bit of blood” on the left arm, cushion and front side of the recliner, as well as blood pooled on the floor around the chair. This led Peterson and his team to conclude that the body had been moved to where it was found on the floor.
Peterson and Wiese also reviewed photos his team took at the crime scene, circling on his monitor the other places in Carpenter’s house blood was found, including on items in a garbage bag on the exterior steps of the home and in a garbage bag inside the foyer area near the back door.
Peterson said Ishpeming City Police Department Chief Dan Willey told his team before they arrived on the scene that the gun was under the pink recliner. Peterson and his team did not find the gun there, but eventually discovered it beneath a pillow in the adjacent bedroom. The pillow and bedding around the gun also had blood on them.
Wiese entered a number of items into evidence, including the .40-caliber handgun, a shell casing, state police lab reports and photographs of the scene.
At the start of defense attorney Karl Numinen’s cross-examination, he entered into evidence the crime scene video Peterson shot when his team first arrived at the Carpenter residence. The approximately 12 minute video shows the scene as Peterson and his team found it.
Numinen then went on to question in detail the standard procedure of a forensics unit when it is dispatched to a scene, as well as afterward when conducting tests on collected evidence. Numinen paid particular attention to the hunting knife found at the scene.
The knife, with a 10-inch black blade and a 5-inch rubber handle – that Carpenter said Meyer threatened him with – was found sticking blade down out of a duffel bag inside a laundry basket in the living room. The duffel bag also contained components which can be used to manufacture methamphetamine, according to police.
Numinen asked Peterson if the hunting knife had been tested for “contact DNA evidence.” Peterson said it hadn’t. Numinen also questioned how much time had elapsed between when the shooting occurred and when Peterson, a latent fingerprint expert, tested the knife for fingerprints. Numinen pointed out that while Peterson said he didn’t find fingerprints anywhere on the knife, he didn’t conduct a latent print analysis on the knife until July 31 of this year.
Numinen also asked if anyone had tried to ascertain to whom the duffel bag or any of its contents belonged. Peterson said that when he recognized what appeared to be materials to cook meth, he called in the Upper Peninsula Substance Enforcement Team, but said that none of the other items in the bag were tested for prints or DNA and no identification was found in the bag.
Numinen asked why the items weren’t tested.
“We have to search for things that have evidentiary value,” Peterson said.
He said if the forensics team had to fingerprint or identify all the items from a crime scene, they would still be there. He also said that because it was known who fired the gun and because both Carpenter and Meyer lived in the Second Street home, “fingerprint evidence wasn’t our primary concern.”
The trial is scheduled to continue Monday.
Zach Jay can be reached at 906-486-4401. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org