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Prosecution Prepares to Rest Case in SE Iowa Murder Trial

Des Moines Register
Prosecutors say this is the gun used to kill Kedarie Johnson, 16, of Burlington. A witness testified Tuesday that she saw Jorge Sanders-Galvez, 23, with it a couple weeks before the shooting

The prosecution has called more than a dozen witnesses to the stand as it makes its case in the first degree murder trial of Jorge Sanders-Galvez, 23. He’s accused of killing of Burlington teenager Kedarie Johnson, 16, last year.

Tri States Public Radio has been in the courtroom throughout the trial. Below are summaries of some of the witnesses the prosecution called to testify this week.

Credit John Lovretta/The Hawkeye
DCI Special Agent Matt George addresses the jury in the murder trial of Jorge Sanders-Galvez

DCI Special Agent Matt George – Tuesday, Oct. 31

Matt George is the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation’s lead agent on the case. The agency provides support to local law enforcement for major crimes, including murder.

George’s testimony focused primarily on Sanders-Galvez’s cell phone and information contained within it. Among the information presented to the jury:

  • Sanders-Galvez was a “Facebook friend” of Kandicee Johnson. Kandicee is Kedarie Johnson’s female Facebook account (he also had a male persona account).
  • Facebook messages from Sanders-Galvez placed him in Burlington prior the murder of Kedarie Johnson and in Saint Louis a few days after the murder.
  • Sanders-Galvez was staying at 2610 Madison prior to Johnson’s murder. Prosecutors say that’s the home where Sanders-Galvez and his cousin, Jaron Purham took Johnson the night he was killed. Purham is also charged with First Degree Murder and will be tried separately.
  • Photos of the alleged murder weapon were found in Sanders-Galvez’s Facebook account.

The jury was also shown a video of Jaron Purham having sex with an unidentified female at the home at 2610 Madison. Sanders-Galvez was filming the video.
The defense attempted, with the juror outside of the courtroom, to block the viewing of the video because it would paint the defendant in a negative light.

Federal prosecutor Christopher Perras argued that the video helped show the motive for Sanders-Galvez and Purham grabbing Johnson as he walked home, dressed as a female.

Judge Mary Ann Brown allowed the video to be played.

Peyton Noll Testimony– Tuesday, Oct. 31

Peyton Noll told the jury that she’s been in an on-again/off-again relationship with Sanders-Galvez for eight years. The pair have a child together.

She testified about a time in February 2016, prior to the death of Johnson on March 2, 2016, when she visited the defendant at 2610 Madison, where Sanders-Galvez was staying at the time.

That is the home the prosecution said Sanders-Galvez and his cousin, Jaron Purham, took Johnson after kidnapping him the night of March 2, 2016. Purham is also charged with first degree murder in connection with Johnson’s death.

Credit John Lovretta/The Hawkeye
Chief Judge Mary Ann Brown is presiding over the trial of Jorge Sanders-Galvez

Noll testified that she saw “the cowboy gun” on the bed she was laying in with Sanders-Galvez. The “cowboy gun” is a .357 caliber Smith & Wesson six-shot revolver that the prosecution has said fired the bullets that killed Johnson.

Investigators secured the gun when they apprehended Purham in St. Louis a couple weeks

Noll said Sanders-Galvez told her, prior to leaving town a couple days after Johnson’s death, that he had to go to Saint Louis for a family emergency. She said he did not go into details prior to departing Burlington.

Noll spoke with the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigations in early March 2016 about Johnson’s death. She said she contacted Sanders-Galvez soon after to tell him that investigators wanted to talk to him about Johnson’s murder.

Noll also sent him a Facebook message, which the jury saw Tuesday morning.

“Jorge – It is what it is. I love you and I am trying to help you with this. But you need to call the Burlington Police Department and take care of that questioning stuff and then make a serious change in your lifestyle.”

He responded by Facebook messenger:

“I didn’t talk to them when I got shot. Why would I come for someone else. SMH. Then they harassing you at work and shit, fucc (sic) them.”

Noll testified that she spoke with Sanders-Galvez by phone or in person almost every day. The prosecution played a portion of their calls, which were recorded due to Sanders-Galvez being incarcerated at the time.

The jury heard Sanders-Galvez get mad at Noll about her speaking to a federal grand jury about the “cowboy gun.” Noll was not allowed to mention the grand jury per a previous order by Judge Mary Ann Brown.

Excerpt 2 from Sanders-Galvez/Noll phone call

Sanders-Galvez told Noll that she did not have to say “shit” about the gun.

Excerpt 3 from Sanders-Galvez/Noll phone call

Detective Christopher Douglas – Tuesday, Oct. 31

With the jury sent home for the night, Det. Christopher Douglas took the stand to talk about his arrest of Sanders-Galvez in Kirkwood, Missouri on April 12, 2016.

He testified outside of the jury’s presence about statements made by Sanders-Galvez during the arrest the prosecution could introduce if the defendant takes the witness stand in his own defense.

Douglas said Sanders-Galvez had various pills, a sum of money, a loaded gun and his cell phone on him during the arrest. Douglas said Sanders-Galvez told him everyone in St. Louis had a gun and that he was making money by selling the drugs.

Richard Crivello – Tuesday, Oct. 31

Richard Crivello is a latent print expert with the Iowa DCI’s crime lab in Ankeny, Iowa.

Credit John Lovretta/The Hawkeye
Federal prosecutor Christopher Perras (L) and Defense Attorney Curtis Dial during the murder trial of Jorge Sanders-Galvez

Crivello testified that he was able to pull 25 fingerprints, 4 palm prints and 1 impression during his examination of items associated with the investigation, including the car driven by Purham and Sanders-Galvez the night of Johnson’s murder, the alleged murder weapon and a box of ammunition.

Crivello said the only prints he was able to identify were from Purham on the car and the box of ammunition and Sanders-Galvez from the exterior of the car. He said he did not find Johnson’s fingerprints on any of the items.

Karl Franzenberg – Monday, Oct. 30

Karl Franzenberg was the first person to take the stand Monday morning. He is a DCI criminalist working in the trace evidence section of the lab.

He said, during his testimony, that several blue fibers found on Johnson’s body came from a polyester bed sheet found in a bedroom at 2610 Madison Street in Burlington.

“When I compared all the fibers in the same way, they were all consistent with each other,” said Franzenberg.

During cross-examination, defense attorney Ron Ellerhoff asked Franzenberg how common it was to have royal blue, polyester bed sheets.

“You don’t know if there are three sheets with that or 30-million?” asked Ellerhoff, to which Franzenberg replied, “no.”

Franzenberg said he did not detect any bleach on other items he examined.

Tara Scott – Monday, Oct. 30

Tara Scott spent the most time on the stand Monday, more than two hours spread out over the lunch hour for jurors.

Scott is a DNA criminalist at the DCI crime lab. She is a criminalist and traveled to Burlington the morning of March 3, 2016 to process the crime scene.

Scott said she tested numerous pieces of evidence: the plastic bag that was wrapped around Johnson’s head, a dried liquid found on Johnson’s body, a used condom, Johnson’s clothing and clothing found in the home at 2610 Madison.

Scott said for the most part, she was unable to find DNA on the items she tested. The prosecution has said Sanders-Galvez and Purham used bleach to dispose of evidence.

“I would expect any items touched by 100% bleach to not show any DNA profiling when I attempt to test it,” said Scott.

One exception was the six-shot revolver identified as the murder weapon.

Scott said she found Purham’s DNA on the gun, which investigators found when they arrested Purham about 18 months ago.

Scott said during cross-examination that she did not find Sanders-Galvez’s DNA on any items she tested, nor did she find DNA from Johnson on the items found in 2610 Madison or the car Sanders-Galvez and Purham were driving the night Johnson was killed.

Victor Murillo - Monday, Oct. 30

Victor Murillo was the final witness to take the stand Monday. He examined the gun that the prosecution said was used to kill Johnson.

Murillo identified the gun as a Smith & Wesson six-shot revolver, model 681. He said his analysis showed that the gun he tested was used to kill Johnson.

Credit John Lovretta/The Hawkeye
Kedarie Johnson's mother, Katrina Johnson, has been sitting in the front row throughout the trial.

“The two bullets were fired from this Smith & Wesson,” said Murillo. “There were enough visual characteristics that I could identify the bullets came from the gun.”

Murillo was asked if the gun in evidence was the same gun seen in social media messages on Sanders-Galvez’s phone. He said he could not see the serial number on the gun in the messages, so he could not say for sure.

“I can’t tell you if it was the same gun,” without the serial number said Murillo.

During cross-examination, Murillo said several other gun manufacturers make weapons that look like the .357 caliber Smith & Wesson used to kill Johnson.

Jason Parrott is a former reporter at Tri States Public Radio.