Heather Jones, accused of second degree murder in the death of Paonia resident Ryan Redifer, is expected to stand trial in early April. In advance of her trial, a hearing on a defense motion to dismiss based on improper police procedures was held in Delta District Court on Feb. 26.
Defense attorney Brandon Luna contends Paonia police officers and sheriff's deputies failed to preserve exulpatory evidence -- evidence that could convince a jury that Jones is not guilty.
The court heard from law enforcement witnesses about how they collected evidence from the scene of the shooting in January 2018. Jones allegedly shot Redifer as he was entering his home, then called 911. Body camera video, still photos and documents were admitted as exhibits during the hearing. The focus of the hearing, however, was an 18-page report formulated by an expert in the field of crime scene reconstruction and death investigations. Jonathan Priest was questioned via telephone, first by defense attorney Brandon Luna and then by district attorney Dan Hotsenpiller.
Luna focused on four pieces of evidence he contends were not properly handled by investigators. Of specific note were a backpack and a Bible that Priest said could be examined to help determine trajectory of the two bullets that were allegedly fired by Heather Jones.
A T-shirt reportedly worn by Redifer was also brought up. Although Priest had not an opportunity to examine the T-shirt in person, he said "bullet swipe" from holes in the T-shirt could be used to determine directionality of the rounds.
Luna also questioned Priest about a window into the home, following up on a defense theory that because Redifer entered his own home through a window, Jones could easily have assumed he was an intruder.
Hotsenpiller quickly seized on that statement, demanding to know where it was ever reported Redifer came in through a window.
Early in the hearing, a sheriff's deputy said he understood Redifer and Jones had said the shooting was accidental.
When he arrived on the scene, Chief Neil Ferguson said he was focused on delivering medical aid to Redifer, who he testifed was yelling and screaming in pain. "She shot me," Ferguson reported Redifer as saying.
After considering the four key points of evidence in question, Judge Stephen Schultz agreed with the DA's office that dismissal was a "drastic remedy." Mere failure to investigate does not constitute suppression of evidence, he said.