Glasgow Daily Times, Glasgow, KY

March 19, 2014

Chesher murder case expected to go to jury Thursday

Glasgow Daily Times

GLASGOW — A Metcalfe County jury is expected to begin deliberations Thursday in the trial of the man accused of fatally shooting Ronnie Hiser in June.

The prosecution rested Wednesday after bringing in five Kentucky State Police personnel to testify, and the defense called its only witness – the defendant, William “Bill” Chesher, who is charged with murder and tampering with physical evidence.

Circuit Judge Phil Patton told jurors that they will receive instructions Thursday and attorneys will give their closing arguments. Patton said he didn’t want the deliberations to begin late in the afternoon.

“I think it’s too important for people to be tired when you begin your deliberation,” he said.

He dismissed the jury just before 2:30 p.m. Wednesday and called the attorneys into his chambers to work on the instructions.

Ricky Brooks, the lead detective on the case for the state police, testified about what he saw and heard when he arrived at the Hiser home. Hiser had already having been removed by emergency medical personnel, and he died at a Louisville hospital the following morning.

Brooks said Karen Hiser, who had been married to Ronnie Hiser, told him she heard on a knock on the door of their home in the Wisdom community. She opened the door and saw Chesher on the porch, saw a gun in his hand, so she then shut the door, locked it and told Ronnie Hiser not to open it. Ronnie Hiser went and got his gun, came back and opened the door. The detective said he asked her whether Ronnie Hiser said anything. She told him that Ronnie Hiser didn’t have a chance to and that he was shot immediately.

Brooks also went to the church where Chesher eventually made his way after tossing his Smith & Wesson handgun into a pay lake and pushing it out of sight with his fishing rod, according to Chesher’s own statement and testimony. The church is where Brooks and another detective conducted an interview with Chesher, the recording of which was played in open court. Brooks also had been at the pay lake a couple of times after Chesher told investigators that’s where he had left the gun.

At the request of Commonwealth’s Attorney John Gardner, Brooks opened a series of boxes and envelopes containing various pieces of evidence and explained where each item was found. These included Hiser’s Taurus 9 mm gun, which had had a magazine of ammunition in it but none was in the chamber ready to be fired, Brooks said. Other evidence he displayed included Chesher’s gun and ammunition found in the water, in his vehicle and at the Hiser home, as well as Hiser’s iPhone.

Chesher had 56 rounds of ammunition with him when he arrived at the Hiser home that morning. A full 20-round magazine was found in his glove compartment. A 20-round magazine and a 15-round magazine with 14 rounds left in it were found in the lake – one had been fired and one unfired round was outside the house, Brooks said.

Defense attorney Greg Berry pointed out that Karen Hiser had told Brooks that Ronnie Hiser could get hateful when he took too many of his drugs, referring to pain- and anxiety-reducing and muscle-relaxing prescriptions, among others. Brooks confirmed that Karen Hiser told him that she and Chesher had never talked about harming Ronnie, and Chesher had never said to Brooks they made plans to kill him together, but that statements to the effect of wishing Ronnie would die were made.

Berry made the point through questions to Brooks that when someone is pointing a gun at you, you can’t tell whether the safety mechanism is on, whether the barrel is loaded or even whether it’s a real gun. But if a gun were pointed at him or someone else, “it would be a threat you’d have to deal with at that time?”

“As a police officer, yes,” Brooks replied.

Next were two other KSP personnel who were at the church the day of the shooting – Trooper Jason Warner and Detective Nicholas Davis. They testified regarding the chain of custody and handling of evidence, and Davis further testified regarding comments he heard Chesher make while transporting him to the Edmonton Police Department.

Those comments were not recorded, so Davis pointed out that what was in his report was paraphrasing, but Chesher said he felt sorry for that guy, he couldn’t believe he did it and that the victim was pointing a gun at him and he shot him.

Darius Arabadjief, the medical examiner who conducted the autopsy on Ronnie, said the bullet struck just above the nose, at the nasal bridge, and continued into the brain. He discussed blood, urinalysis and toxicology reports as well, noting that all drugs in Ronnie’s system were within therapeutic limits.

Trooper Bobby Maxwell, a 19-year KSP veteran who had responded to the residence May 8 for a welfare check at Chesher’s request because Chesher believed Karen Hiser was being held against her will, testified regarding his visit.

He said he spoke with them and with Karen Hiser alone, which is customary when there is concern over possible domestic violence. She told him that although they had had some issues in the past, she was fine. Maxwell said he knew of one other time KSP had responded there, and thought the sheriff’s office had a few times as well.

Berry asked whether sometimes people in domestic violence situations are hesitant to speak truthfully, even when alone with the interviewer.

“That’s true, but I’ve been doing this for 19 years, and I’ve got a pretty good feel for [when] that’s the case,” Maxwell said.

Gardner also called Lynn Spencer, a criminal intel analyst with KSP. She explained how she retrieved things such as call logs, text messages, photos and videos from Chesher’s iPhone.

She told Gardner the content of each of 21 text messages from Chesher’s number to Karen’s number the morning of the shooting, starting at 4 a.m. and continuing through 8:54 a.m., some of which Gardner had discussed in his opening remarks. (Karen’s call to 911 to report the shooting was at 8:59 a.m.)

On the morning of June 4, from 5:35 to 8:48 a.m., eight calls were placed from number to hers. One call, at 12:38 a.m., was made from her number to his.