Mistrial Declared in Gary Dunn Murder Trial
January 28, 2011
The second capital murder trial of Gary Dunn, accused of killing an Arkansas Tech University student in 2005, has been declared a mistrial.
The Johnson County jury told Circuit Judge Bill Pearson they were unable to agree on a verdict around 8 p.m. Friday. Dunn was on trial for the Dec. 15, 2005 death of Nona Dirksmeyer, 19.
He will be tried again at a later date, according to prosecutors. Dunn will be held in the Pope County Jail until then. A gag order has been issued in the case.
Jurors began deliberating the case Thursday afternoon before breaking for the evening. After 11 hours of deliberation Friday, Judge Pearson called the jury back around 6 p.m. He asked if they wanted to continue or resume on Monday. At the time the jury was split 9 to 3. The group decided to continue deliberations.
Before Dunn’s second trial began, the prosecution decided it would not seek the death penalty. Dunn’s first capital murder trial in May 2010 for Dirksmeyer’s death ended in mistrial when the jury couldn’t reach a verdict. The original suspect, Dirksmeyer’s boyfriend Kevin Jones, was acquitted of her murder in 2007.
It’s the second mistrial for Dunn after his first ended in a hung jury last April.DIRKSMEYER’S DEATH
Jones found Dirksmeyer choked, beaten, and stabbed to death. Police said it was not a random act. Dirksmeyer lived off-campus in Russellville. Police said the victim was beaten to death with a floor lamp. Autopsy results indicated Dirksmeyer, a music major, died of multiple blunt force injuries.
Dirksmeyer was buried in late December. On the day of her funeral, police also said they’d cleared all but one of the suspects. No names were mentioned. One month after the murder, the investigation was turned over to the Pope County prosecutor.
Three months had passed since Dirksmeyer’s murder when police made an arrest. The suspect was Jones, her boyfriend. Jones turned himself in to face a first-degree murder charge. He was eventually released on a $250,000 bond. He was later acquitted in 2007. A special prosecutor was named to the case. In August 2008, a new arrest was made.GARY DUNN
After Jones was acquitted in for Dirksmeyer’s murder in 2007, Gary Dunn was developed as a new suspect. Dunn was Dirksmeyer’s neighbor at the Inglewood apartments in Russellville. A judge ruled the DNA evidence found on a condom wrapper at the scene was admissible.
Authorities said Dunn put himself at the apartment complex at the time of the murder.
Dunn requested a mental evaluation. His lawyers said the mental exam would help determine whether their client was competent to be tried. Also noted, the prosecutors would have access to what Dunn said to examiners. Having the exam would also enable defense lawyers to better defend Dunn if there is a penalty phase to determine whether he should be executed or given life in prison.
Dunn pleaded not guilty. His bond was set at $1,000,000.DUNN’S SECOND TRIAL
During Dunn’s second trial in January 2011, Dirksmeyer’s mother took the stand, testifying about her daughter’s sexual history and mental state. She thought Dirksmeyer had committed suicide because of her history of depression and self-mutilation.
Also taking the stand was a jogger who was attacked by Dunn in 2002. Kelly Jo McCormick, who resembles Dirksmeyer, said Dunn hit her in the head with a tree branch while she was on a jogging trail in Russellville. McCormick said Dunn screamed, “I’m going to kill you.” McCormick got away from Dunn after receiving several injuries to her face. Dr. Charles Kokes, the state medical examiner, said Dirksmeyer’s body had the same type of blows. Dunn was convicted of second-degree battery for the beating.
Dirksmeyer’s stepfather and uncle also testified. The defense questioned them about Dirksmeyer’s boyfriend, Jones, and his behavior after the murder.
Dunn didn’t take the stand in his own defense.
The defense spent at least one hour giving closing arguments, pointing the finger at Jones. The defense used Jones’ phone records and inconsistent timeline as evidence. The defense also said no expert witness was able to testify beyond a shadow of a doubt that the DNA on the condom wrapper is in fact Dunn’s, or that it had anything to do with the murder. Blood and DNA experts say the DNA allegedly linking Dunn to the crime scene is partial and inconclusive.
The prosecution concluded its case saying it didn’t need to prove why Dunn killed Dirksmeyer, only that he did. Dunn has multiple explanations for his whereabouts during the time of Dirksmeyer’s murder. The prosecution, however, said DNA on a condom wrapper found at the scene ties Dunn to the crime.PRE-TRIAL TO SECOND TRIAL
Dunn said in court papers that another man murdered Dirksmeyer and used a television show to devise his method. Dunn asked the judge if the jury could watch the show “Forensic Files” because it has “striking similarities” to how Jones acted around the time Dirksmeyer was killed.DUNN’S FIRST TRIAL
Prosecutors acknowledged in opening statements that Russellville Police made mistakes when they investigated the case in 2005.
Prosecutors argued a condom wrapper found near the body had DNA matching Dunn’s. A genetics expert said the chance the DNA on the condom wrapper doesn’t match Dunn’s is 120 million to one. Dunn’s attorney argued the expert’s theory was outdated.
The prosecution also argued there was “substantial evidence” showing Dirksmeyer was the victim of a sexual assault or an attempted assault, even though no semen was found on her body. Defense attorneys said there was no evidence Dirksmeyer was sexually assaulted.
The defense said Jones is the real killer, saying he contaminated evidence using techniques he learned while watching crime shows. Jones testified during the trial and said he climbed on top of his girlfriend to try and keep her body warm after finding it.
Dunn’s estranged wife testified during the trial and said she saw him leaving Dirksmeyer’s apartment two weeks before her death. Dunn told police he didn’t know Dirksmeyer. His estranged wife also said Dunn asked her to lie about his alibi. She also said her husband sexually abused her before they separated.
Prosecutors called Jones’ best friend and mother to the stand. Police say Jones was with the friend and mother when he found his girlfriend stabbed and beaten to death. Dirksmeyer’s mother and stepfather were also called to the stand.
Investigators said Dirksmeyer’s killer appears to be left-handed. State Police Investigator Bill Glover says Dunn is left-handed, after watching him sign a statement using his left hand. A doctor said the cuts and stab marks on Dirksmeyer’s neck and shoulder were likely inflicted by someone who was right-handed.
In the end, a jury didn’t convict Dunn. The foreman told Circuit Judge Bill Pearson they hadn’t made any progress. Judge Pearson asked the foreman which way the jury was leaning. The foreman said, “Six, four, and two.”
The judge declared a dead-locked jury.JONES’ TRIAL
Prosecutors called it a crime of passion and Dirksmeyer’s boyfriend was named a suspect.
In the arrest affidavit, investigators compared statements Jones made to them and those from his cell phone records. Jones told investigators he last saw Dirksmeyer at 12:30 a.m. when he left her apartment. That was also the day she was murdered. Jones called her at 1:30 a.m. when he went to bed. The affidavit states he told officers he got a text message from Dirksmeyer around 9 a.m. Jones said he didn’t leave his house until 11:45 a.m., when he went to his parents’ gas station. In the probable cause statement, it says the person Jones told police he spoke with didn’t actually see Jones until 1 p.m. In the interview, Jones said he tried calling Dirksmeyer around 11 or 12 in the afternoon, but the phone rang and went straight to voicemail. Phone records obtained by investigators show Jones didn’t call at those times. He didn’t make a call until around 2 p.m. After that time, authorities say he made several calls and sent a text message around 4:30 p.m. reading “U alive.”
A forensic pathologist testified, saying a time of death couldn’t be pinpointed because there is no science to establish it. He did, however, say Dirksmeyer was tortured with the knife, punched in the face, and then hit with a floor lamp.
In the prosecution’s closing statements, they said Jones answered a text message from Dirksmeyer, his girlfriend, and then went to her apartment and killed her. The defense said Jones was too busy doing chores at his house to be at Dirksmeyer’s apartment 25 minutes away.
The only thing linking Jones to the scene was a bloody palm print. It’s unknown whether the print was left during the murder or when Jones discovered the body. A forensic scientist said it was made when Jones found the body because the print was somewhat wet, as described in a police report.
The prosecution played a 95 minute tape of Jones’ first interview with police. Jones was visibly shaken during the interview. He usually cried when investigators left the room.
The defense grilled lead investigator Mark Frost, claiming the mass of police at the scene tampered with possible evidence. Frost also admitted to taking a knife as evidence one day after the murder. Frost also called the scene “staged.” Frost said a condom wrapper found at the scene was only tested for fingerprints, never for DNA.
The defense also said a male’s fingernail was found in the carpet near Dirksmeyer’s body, but wasn’t tested.
Jurors also heard from state crime lab employees who tested evidence from the scene, including cell phones, clothes, and blood samples.
One of Dirksmeyer’s neighbors testified saying she saw a male, who wasn’t Jones, arguing and beating on her apartment door about one month before her death.
Jones was tried and acquitted of first-degree murder on July 19, 2007. Jones started crying when the judge read the verdict. Dirksmeyer’s stepfather yelled, “You got away with it, Kevin!” Prosecutors said they respected the jury’s decision.http://www.kspr.com/news/local/kfsm-mistrial-declared-in-dirksmeyer-murder-20110128,0,4993419,full.story