Drug use, testing central to Wednesday testimony in Glenwood murder trial
Prosecution continued to present evidence Wednesday, the sixth day of the trial against Gustavo Olivo-Tellez, 29, accused of first-degree murder in the shooting of Blanca Salas-Jurado Oct. 7, 2016.
Most of the day was taken in cross examination of Garfield County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Matthew Jenness, one of two lead investigators in the case and the prosecution’s advisory witness.
Jenness traveled to Grand Junction after Salas’ body was discovered in Glenwood Springs to assist in apprehending Olivo-Tellez and codefendant Michelle Castillo, 26, where they had stayed the night in a hotel after the Salas shooting.
Olivo-Tellez’ principal attorney, Garth McCarty, pressed Jenness on a number of areas critical to the defense’s case that Olivo-Tellez did not shoot his estranged wife “after deliberation,” as required by the charges. Rather, his attorneys say he acted in a heat of passion after several days of heavy methamphetamine and alcohol consumption.
McCarty asked Jenness if he had seen reports from other lead detectives who interviewed people who knew of Olivo-Tellez’s meth and alcohol use.
Specifically, McCarty asked if Jenness was aware that Olivo-Tellez had been in communication with a woman about his drug use the day before the shooting.
Jenness testified that he was made aware of certain statements related to that during the course of the investigation, but many came from people who Jenness did not interview personally.
McCarty also zeroed in on why Olivo-Tellez was not subjected to drug testing when he was arrested around 7 a.m. the day after Salas was shot dead.
Ninth District Attorney Jeff Cheney objected to the relevance of that line of questioning when McCarty went into specific, standardized field sobriety tests.
“This isn’t a DUI case,” Judge John Neiley said, sustaining Cheney’s objection to those questions.
McCarty countered that the case was much more important. “This is a much more serious case that involves drugs and alcohol,” McCarty said.
Even though some of those questions were limited, juror-submitted queries to Jenness later in the day brought some answers to the drug testing question.
McCarty said later that he was not interested in arguing that sobriety tests should have been done, or suggesting that such tests would have proven something about his client’s sobriety 11 hours earlier, when he is accused of shooting Salas.
McCarty wanted to establish whether there were standard drug-testing parameters that were properly followed.
Drug testing “is not something we routinely do on criminal suspects without a substantial piece of information,” Jenness said.
Drawing blood without the suspect’s permission requires a warrant, where officers must prove probable cause that the blood will reveal something, he explained.
“We can’t just take blood without a warrant for that person,” Jenness said. Other law enforcement officers who assisted in Olivo-Tellez’ arrest testified earlier in the trial that they did not notice any of the common signs of impairment.
Jenness also testified that the investigation didn’t cover searches of Olivo-Tellez’ Denver-area residence or workplace, and that detectives did not interview the defendant’s friends about his drug habits.
The officer who searched Olivo-Tellez’ black Camaro where it was abandoned in Rifle testified late Wednesday that he found no drugs or paraphernalia in the car. But there was a nearly-empty bottle of cinnamon-flavored whiskey and empty beer cans, according to the officer.
Also in the Camaro were five .357 bullets (Salas was shot four times with a 9 mm semiautomatic handgun), pay stubs and receipts, a pair of underwear and a digital camera.