SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – After seven days of testimony in the trial of the man accused of shooting and killing a couple who gave him a ride home from the mall in Shreveport, DeWayne Watkin’s defense attorney called for a mistrial Thursday.
That motion was ultimately denied, but it came amid a series of objections from the defense that delayed the start of testimony until late in the morning.
Watkin, 37, is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the Nov. 8, 2018, shooting deaths of Heather and Kelly Jose, whose charred bodies were found in a burning car later that night in the driveway of an unoccupied house in Shreveport‘s Queensborough neighborhood. Prosecutors say Watkins shot them both after they gave him a ride from Mall St. Vincent on the night of the slayings and burned their bodies to destroy evidence.
Capt. Shannon Mack, digital forensics expert at the Bossier Parish Sheriff’s Digital Forensics Lab, was originally on deck to testify Wednesday afternoon, but because of the defense’s lengthy questioning of other witnesses, she never took the stand.
Before Mack could take the stand on Thursday, the defense called her into the courtroom before the jury was seated to ask her questions about her methodology. Mack explained that she reviewed records given to her by Shreveport police but also did her own investigation. Mack has been certified as an expert witness in numerous criminal cases in Louisiana for more than a decade.
After questioning her about the software program she uses, which she said was specifically created for law enforcement, she was sent back outside the courtroom to wait until she was called as a witness almost two hours later.
The defense then objected to testimony from a witness who testified last week, claiming they had not been informed of one of the things he said on the witness stand, and asked for a mistrial to be declared. It was the sixth time since the trial began that the defense asked for a mistrial.
In this case, the objection was in reference to the testimony of Bryan Adler, who testified on the day before the Joses’ were killed, he was at the Job Corps waiting to pick up his daughter and had a litter of rescue puppies he was trying to sell. He said Watkins came to his truck and expressed an interest in the puppies but said he would need to talk to his girlfriend.
Adler said Watkins wanted him to take him to where his girlfriend was, but Adler didn’t let him inside his truck, so Watkins rode in the back. When they got there, she wasn’t there, so they exchanged cell numbers and parted.
Later, on the evening of Nov. 7, Adler said Watkins called him and asked him to meet him at a house in the 3400 block of Penick Street. Adler took a neighbor with him to the location, but when he got there, he said he went into the carport but was uneasy and left before meeting Watkins.
After hearing about the Joses’ murder and subsequent burning, Adler contacted police because he recognized the house where the couple’s charred bodies were found.
The police, and later the district attorney’s office, interviewed Adler, but defense attorney Sean Collins said they did not tell the defense that Adler said he went into the carport of the Penick Street house.
Caddo Parish Assistant District Attorney Bill Edwards, however, claimed he did not know anything about pulling into the carport either and only heard it when Adler testified seven days ago, so he could not have added it to the discovery handed over to the defense.
Still, outside of the purview of the jury, presiding Judge John Mosely called SPD Sgt. Angie Willhite, the lead homicide detective in the case, to the witness stand. Willhite conducted the interviews with Adler. She, too, testified under oath that Adler had never mentioned the carport until he was on the witness stand.
With that, Mosely denied the defense’s motion for a mistrial, and the jury was finally seated just before noon when Mack was called to the stand to testify.
In a darkened courtroom, Heather and Kelly Joses’ families stoically watched as Mack tracked Heather Jose’s cellphone on the night of the murders on a Google map flashed up on the screen before the jury.
Mack illustrated Heather’s route in pink, starting at 8:31 p.m. when she and Kelly drove out of Mall St. Vincent with their alleged killer in the back seat, driving west and ultimately into the Queensborough neighborhood, where it appeared she was driving in circles before the cellphone and Google tracking quit working. The last phone hit was at 9:08 p.m., Mack said, adding that by 9:35 p.m., neither was working.
Asked to explain, Mack said the phone was off at that point and that it could have been destroyed or the battery had run out.
After the state finished, the defense began its cross-examination, asking for records that Mack did not have available. However, she said she could download them, so the court recessed for another hour so she could do so.
When finished, the jury was brought back into the courtroom, and the defense asked a few more questions about other phones that were tracked before finally stopping.
A few questions followed from the prosecution, and then Mack was dismissed, and the jury was sent home for the evening.
But court still was not finished. The defense stated they had a few more objections, and after a call to the bench, the judge recessed the trial at around 5:45.
Arguments on those objections will resume Friday morning.