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TMCNet:  Cellphone location focus at murder trial

[November 09, 2012]

Cellphone location focus at murder trial

WALLA WALLA, Nov 09, 2012 (Walla Walla Union-Bulletin - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Daniel D. Dodd's cellphone was in proximity to Kevin Myrick's residence just before he was fatally wounded, according to testimony Thursday by an FBI special agent.

Jennifer Banks of the Spokane office told the jury at Dodd's murder trial that based on Verizon Wireless records and a spot check she performed this week, the phone received a voice mail call at 10:15 p.m. on June 12, 2011.

Myrick was shot in the driveway of his home at 1123 S. Third Ave. about five minutes later.

Banks testified she couldn't pinpoint the exact latitude and longitude of Dodd's cellphone, but the call to it was initiated and terminated from a cell tower near the 2400 block of South Third.

"It liked that tower, that phone at the time," she said.

But she acknowledged under cross-examination by defense attorney Michael de Grasse that she couldn't tell who was in possession of Dodd's phone during the time in question.

The testimony is significant because Dodd reportedly told investigators he had been at his home on Wooden Road in the Clyde area the night Myrick was shot and had his cellphone with him.

Law enforcement officials told the jury Thursday that Myrick -- who had a chemical dependency problem -- had become a narcotics informant for the Walla Walla County Sheriff's Office to "work off" potential criminal charges of burglary or possession of stolen property.

He became a paid informant before his death. Walla Walla police Sgt. Chris Buttice testified that Myrick wanted to "burn all his ties to the narcotics world." As an informant, Myrick bought drugs from Dodd's girlfriend, Tina Taylor, who was arrested in March 2011 for delivery of hydrocodone. Myrick was a prospective witness at her trial, but was killed before it occurred. She ended up pleading guilty after her trial began.

Taylor made several monitored phone calls to Dodd while in jail awaiting trial. As the date approached, "Her tone and demeanor became very frantic on the phone to Mr. Dodd," Buttice told the jury.

De Grasse pointed out in questioning Buttice that Taylor pleaded guilty even though Myrick had been killed, so he ultimately was not a "crucial witness" in her case. But led by Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Gabriel Acosta, Buttice added that Myrick was wearing a "body wire" during the drug transaction with Taylor and that recording was played to the jury at Taylor's trial before she cut it short by pleading guilty.

Buttice acknowledged under questioning by de Grasse that Myrick's residence had been "firebombed" a few weeks before he was murdered. Buttice said Myrick had been "afraid of harm to him" and law enforcement gave him money on several occasions for a motel or to pay for other safeguards.

Also, "We spent time as we could in the neighborhood," but weren't able to provide 24-hour protection for Myrick, Buttice said.

In other testimony Thursday, sheriff's Sgt. Gary Bolster said the suspected murder weapon -- a Smith & Wesson .357 magnum revolver recovered from the Snake River in March of this year -- is capable of firing a .38-caliber slug, such as one that killed Myrick and was recovered at the scene of the shooting.

TRIAL AT A GLANCE Defendant: Daniel D. Dodd, 43.

Murder victim: Kevin Myrick, 24, who was shot in the face about 10:20 p.m. June 12, 2011, while working on his girlfriend's vehicle in the driveway of his residence at 1123 S. Third Ave. He died the next day at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

Superior Court charges: First-degree murder, including a firearm enhancement that would add five years to a sentence. Dodd also is accused of first-degree unlawful possession of a firearm. (Dodd is not allowed to possess a gun because he was convicted in 1989 of second-degree burglary.) If convicted of the charges, he would face more than four decades in prison.

The trial began Tuesday and is expected to last several days.

Information and allegations relating to the case: Myrick was an informant for the Walla Walla County Sheriff's Office who had made a number of controlled drug buys, including one from Dodd's girlfriend, Tina L. Taylor. She was arrested March 1, 2011, for delivery of hydrocodone and Myrick was a prospective witness against her.

When Dodd allegedly killed Myrick to eliminate him as a prospective witness, Taylor's trial was set to begin later that month. She ended up pleading guilty and was sentenced to more than eight years in prison.

During the murder investigation, police learned that a friend of Dodd had lent him a .357-caliber Smith & Wesson revolver about four days before Myrick was killed. Such a gun is consistent with one that will fire a .38-caliber slug that apparently had exited Myrick's body and was found under a bush at the homicide scene.

A few hours after the murder occurred, Dodd returned the borrowed gun to his friend, who then reportedly gave it to another man about three or four days later. That man ultimately threw the gun into the Snake River under the bridge at Hood Park after he found out Dodd had said the gun had been used. After the man who threw the gun away showed police the location on March 6 of this year, Columbia Basin Dive Rescue recovered a revolver matching the suspected murder weapon.

Dodd -- who had been incarcerated on unrelated warrants since June 16, 2011 -- was charged March 12 with Myrick's murder and remains in the County Jail.

An examination by the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab of the bullet found at the crime scene was inconclusive as to whether it had been fired by the gun that was recovered. But the gun couldn't be ruled out as the murder weapon.

Dodd has denied having anything to do with Myrick's death and said he was at his home on Wooden Road the night Myrick was killed.

However, investigators determined that his cell phone received a voice mail at 10:15 that night. "The cell phone tower transmitting the call is located on South Third (Avenue) in Walla Walla, and encompasses the area of 1123 S. Third Ave," according to a police report.

___ (c)2012 Walla Walla Union-Bulletin (Walla Walla, Wash.) Visit Walla Walla Union-Bulletin (Walla Walla, Wash.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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