Day two of the murder trial of Richard Goens continued with state witness testimony and news of a COVID-19 exposure among the jury.
As jurors were set to be released for lunch, Judge Grant Bannister informed the court that juror 13 had tested positive for the novel coronavirus some time prior to Monday morning. Bannister says she only reported mild symptoms, and indicates she had no close contact with anyone while in the hallways of the Riley County Courthouse while on break. Masks are mandatory while in the courthouse, and all jurors are divided with plexiglass while seated in the courtroom.
New KDHE COVID guidelines adopted by Riley County January 4 indicate vaccinated individuals who test positive do not need to isolate if not experiencing symptoms of the virus. As such, the trial is slated to continue as scheduled barring additional positive tests bringing the juror count below the required 12. Bannister instructed jurors to inform the court if they begin experiencing symptoms or if they test positive.
Prior to lunch, jurors heard testimony from two Riley County police detectives as well as a local crime scene investigator and a forensic scientist from the Kansas Bureau of Investigation.
Detective Tanner Monroe was first on the stand Monday morning, detailing information acquired through his interview with Jaylon Hitsman. He and his brother Dylan as well as Shamar Sutton are all alleged to be involved in the events leading to the killing of Tanner Zamecnik on November 1, 2019. Dylan has been sentenced to 24 years in prison while Jaylon faces 15 years as part of a plea deal. Sutton’s case will commence following Goens’.
Monroe says at first, Jaylon, Dylan and Shamar appeared to be simply witnesses of the 2019 shooting, not suspects involved in a plot to commit robbery, though noted the information he provided seemed ‘odd’ for just a witness. He says he interviewed Jaylon at or just after 11 p.m. on Nov. 1, 2019, approaching an hour and a half following the shooting. Monroe says Jaylon told him the group was smoking cannabis with a man who Jaylon says he knew as ‘Rich’ at an apartment on Moro Street before setting out to get more cannabis from Zamecnik, who Dylan made contact with through Snapchat. Monroe says Jaylon never mentioned a robbery plot, though indicated on cross-examination that Jaylon may not have been paying close attention to conversations going on at the apartment.
Monroe says Jaylon told him that Goens told Dylan to set up the deal with Zamecnik, wherein they would meet with him near the dumpsters at the Park Place Apartments on Cambridge Place. Jaylon was sitting in the seat behind Zamecnik, and his door is the one Goens approached and began ‘demanding and yelling’ that the marijuana be handed over while standing between the car body and the door. Monroe says Jaylon indicated that Goens was holding the gun downward from his standing position, which appeared to be pointed at his lap. Monroe says Jaylon told Zamecnik to drive, who then shifted the car into reverse and began moving. Jaylon told Monroe that Goens somehow hung onto the car before the Hitsmans jumped out and somewhere in that quick sequence of action a shot was fired that hit and killed Zamecnik. Monroe was not able to say how Jaylon exited the vehicle while Goens was supposedly hanging on, Goens did not report any injuries requiring medical attention and no bullet holes indicated the shot pierced into the vehicle from an external source.
Jaylon provided Monroe with the address the group was smoking at through Google Street View — the same address wherein Richard Goens lived and was located by a task force early on November 2. Additionally, the phones of Zamecnik and Dylan Hitsman were downloaded, photographed and analyzed by investigators. Zamecnik’s Snapchat stories advertising his cannabis stock for sale were found to have been viewed by Dylan and Zamecnik’s Snapchat showed a history in which he sent Dylan a breakdown of his prices by weight of marijuana. Upon examination, Dylan’s snapchat was found to have blocked Zamecnik’s account indicating that was done some time between receiving contact from Zamecnik and reporting to RCPD. Dylan’s phone also showed communication history with his mother in which he made numerous missed calls in quick succession starting at 9:58 p.m., with the two of them having minute-long conversations twice at 10:13 and 10:16 p.m. November 1. Prior texts between the two mentioned Rich by name in relation to acquiring marijuana.
Detective Ehrlich was the lead detective on the case, tasked with managing and directing resources and seeing the investigation through to a conclusion. Ehrlich was responsible for interviewing Dylan Hitsman on November 1 as well, also echoing the sentiments of Monroe that Dylan made no indication that he had any involvement in a robbery plot that evening. Ehrlich also acquired Dylan’s phone, which had been given to Dawn. A call from a ‘Shumar’ was recorded as having been received by Dylan at 9:50 p.m.
With the Hitsmans still at the Riley County Law Enforcement Center, the investigation had culminated such that Goens was developed as the prime suspect and the RCPD Emergency Response Unit [ERU] — the county’s SWAT team — was activated to assist with a warrant at Goens’ Moro Street apartment. Having received GPS information placing Goens in the building, the team moved to arrest Goens and begin searching his home for the presence of weapons and other contraband.
CSI Michael Wade Cherms was an investigator on-scene at the place of the shooting as well as at Goens’ home the next day. Cherms photographed cannabis found on Zamecnik as well as the shell casing linked to the shooting. No weapons were found in the vicinity or in Zamecnik’s vehicle. Cherms walked jurors through the numerous pieces of evidence found in Goens’ apartment on November 2 as well. No weapon was discovered, though nine 9-millimeter handgun rounds were found — though not hollow-point rounds as used in Zamecnik’s shooting. A later search of the apartment with the help of ATF and canines on November 4 turned up a holster, but again no weapon. The searches did turn up about an ounce of marijuana — confirmed via KBI testing, as testified by KBI Forensic Scientist Beth Royel — found alongside smoking paraphernalia, an herb grinder, a digital scale, and bags that Cherms testified are commonly used in drug sales as well as $530 in cash.
The case is scheduled to continue Monday afternoon.