Fleming Murder trial Day Five Monday Feb 25


Fleming Trial – Day Five


Monday, February 25, 2019


By Terry Bailey



The fifth day of the Chuck “Chuckie” Fleming murder trial saw activity draw closer to its final outcome. Mitchell County attorney Mark Noah and Lincoln County Jennifer O’Hare called four witnesses and after questioning them rested the case for the prosecution. Defense attorney Julie Effenbeck called four witnesses and, after questioning them, announced that the defense rests. At that time, the prosecution gave his final closing statements followed by Effenbeck with the closing statements for the defense. Noah had one final time to sum up his case. The Honorable Judge Kim Cudney gave the jury its directions for their deliberation. The jury then recessed to the jury room with the physical evidence to deliberate the case. The jury had not reached a verdict by 8:00 pm. Cudney dismissed the trial for the day and told the jurors to return at 9 am in the morning to continue their consideration of the facts and evidence.


The trial began shortly after 9 am when Mitchell County Sheriff Tony Perez was called by the prosecution. Perez testified regarding evidence that he brought back from the Great Bend KBI crime lab and that the evidence was in his presence all the way back to Beloit. Perez said the evidence was kept in a safe in his office.


Effenbeck asked Perez if he reassembled the shotgun that he retrieved from the crime lab. He said that he did assemble the shotgun that was in the evidence box.


Noah then called Robert Jacobs, KBI Special Agent with specialization in violent crimes. Jacobs was involved in the autopsy of Carol Fleming on August 18 and 19, 2003. He took extensive photographs and made notes to document the proceeding. Noah showed autopsy pictures to Jacobs and asked if they were pictures he had taken and accurately portrayed the autopsy. Jacobs said it did.


O’Hare then called Doctor Obbreth who was the deputy coroner of Sedgwick County in August of 2003. She completed the autopsy of Carol Fleming on August 18 and 19, 2003. When the doctor asked about Fleming’s injuries listed several:


1) A gunshot wound above and slightly in front of right ear.


2) Abrasions on her arm and leg.


Obbreth then described the procedure of the autopsy. She describe the shotgun wound as a contact wound. A contact wound is one in which the barrel of the shotgun would have been very close to her head when it was discharged. It came from the left and above Fleming’s body as it lie on the bed.


Asked if a blood alcohol reading had been taken during the autopsy and if so, what were the readings? The doctor said they took readings from Fleming’s blood and from the liquid in her eye. The blood testing had a reading of 0.16 and the eye fluid gave a reading of 0.20.


Effenbeck asked Obberth if she was a Board Certified Forensic Pathologist and Obberth said she was. Effenbeck asked if it was true that there is no definite method of determining the time of death in a murder. The doctor said it was true there is no accurate way of determining the exact time of death.


Noah’s next witness was Amy Cooty who was testifying via an internet link from Florida. At the time of Fleming’s death Cooty was a forensic firearm agent with the KBI. The shotgun found at the crime scene was sent to her office in Topeka for examination.


Through the questioning of the witness it was apparent she was well versed in firearms. Some of the evidence was consistent and others not exact to the evidence. One overriding fact was that since there is no rifling in a shotgun barrel, there is no way for pellets found at the crime scene to be traced to any specific shotgun.


Cooty said that after all her testing was done, the shotgun was put into the evidence box in an assembled condition. Sheriff Perez had testified when he retrieved the shotgun in its box in Great Bend he had to assemble the weapon.


Effenbeck ask a couple clarifying questions.


At that point Noah announced the prosecution rests.


The first witness called by Effenbeck was Brian Foulke. Foulke was the bartender at Cap’s on August 15, 2003. He said he believed Chuck came in after 9:00 pm. He was drinking and talking to people.


Foulke said after closing him and the others in the bar went outside and everyone decided to go to the Fleming house. He drove to Fleming’s and parked behind Chuck’s new truck parked in front of the garage. Foulke ask Chuck if he had any beer and was told it was in the kitchen refrigerator and go get one. Foulke discovered the door was locked which was a very rare occasion. About this time Chuck left to see if he could find a girl he was talking to earlier in the evening. Shortly after Chuck left, Chad arrived and asked, “Where is Chuck?”


Noah had no question for cross examination.


Effenbeck then called Bill Pettijohn. Effenbeck reviewed his previous testimony and verified that he was the chief law enforcement officer in the case. She verified with Pettijohn that neither Rick Harris who was asleep with Carol in her bed or his son David who was asleep in the couch in the living room heard the discharge of the shotgun. She further verified that Chuck had went to the Gilbert Station area to look for a girl he had met earlier in the evening and when he came home he parked his pickup in the garage and fed his St. Bernard dogs.


Pettijohn said that they discovered a shotgun in the back seat of Chuck’s green Ford pickup. He, Wayne Loy, Doug Daugherty and Tom Hall all smelled the breech of the gun and none could detect the smell of gunpowder or cleaning solvent. Pettijohn said that after the lab testing on the shotgun was completed, no blood or fingerprints were found on the gun. The only identifiable prints were found on a plastic Sprite bottle in the Fleming’s garage.


Pettijohn said he had conducted 75 to 100 interviews in this case. He said people came from all over town to the Fleming residence for parties with lots of people in and out of the house. When asked if he was aware of Chad’s involvement with drugs Pettijohn said Chad had a history of drug involvement. Pettijohn said that according to his notes Carol was scheduled to co-sign for a Pontiac Trans Am vehicle for David Harris.


At this point Judge Cudney adjourned the activity for the noon recess. The trial resumed at 1:20 pm.


Pettijohn related the finding of the autopsy contact wound. He said blood spatter from the shotgun blast was found across the bed, on the wall and venetian blinds, an ironing board and a dresser. Effenbeck asked with this much spatter would it be reasonable to expect blood to be on Harris who said he was sleeping alongside Fleming. Pettijohn said it would be expected but none was found on him. Pettijohn said towels and drain traps should have been collected but were not.


Pettijohn said, when asked, “I cannot say definitely that the shotgun recovered from Fleming’s truck was the murder weapon based on no odor for having been shot or cleaned when smelled by four veteran law enforcement officers”


Effenbeck confirmed with Pettijohn that the expended shotgun shell was never recovered.


On cross examination, Noah asked if clothing from Chad and Chuck Fleming or Rick and David Harris had been collected for examination. Pettijohn said clothing had not been collected


Effenbeck called Sherriff Tony Perez. She asked him about reports of a tall, long haired, rough looking guy given by Aaron Cox. Cox reported this person around the Fleming residence that night. Nobody followed up on the sighting.


Noah had no questions.


Wayne Loy was called to the stand. After being called to the scene he got there in minutes and helped to secure the perimeter. He then assisted in the search of the interior of the house. When searching the bathroom he noticed a damp towel in the sink. It was not collected for evidence. As a certified gun specialist it was his belief the gun recovered in the Ford pickup had not been fired recently. He said he believes that another weapon exists and that is the one used in the murder. He said he continues to be puzzled why Rick and David Harris “lawyered up” and did not cooperate in the investigation.


The last witness called was Travis Fleming. He said he knew his dad had rifles and pistols but he was sure he never owned a shotgun. Effenbeck ask if he and his brothers had a nickname for Rick Harris he said “Yes. We called him Slick Rick. We always thought it was odd that mom would be with him.”


Effenbeck asked if he knew Chad had a problem with meth, Travis said he believed Chad developed a problem when he turned 18.


When asked if their mom had a favorite, Travis replied right off, “It was common knowledge that Brad was her favorite. Mom helped out with his expenses.”


After a 30 minute recess the attorneys presented their closing remarks. Mark Noah, representing the State of Kansas, went first. He reminded the jury that the case was about greed and death. Chuck Fleming wanted the money from his dad’s estate, his mother was in charge of the money, and he only way he could get it was by killing her. So he did. He reviewed the points he made during the witness testimony and told them he had proved his case.


Julie Effenbeck asked, “Have you heard anything newShe said most people assumed last summer when Chuck was arrested that new evidence must have surfaced to warrant the arrest. She said, “There was no new evidence.”


She reviewed the timeline for the jury according to people’s testimonies. There were notable inconsistencies she said. She once again raised the situation where neither of the Harris’ heard the shotgun blast in an enclosed area. She asked if Rick Harris was sleeping next to Carol, why he not had blood spatter on him.


Judge Cudney gave instructions to the jury. She told them when they retired to the jury room their first duty was to select a foreperson. They may find the defended guilty of first degree murder, second degree murder of may find the defendant not guilty. It is the duty of the State to prove the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. If the jury had reasonable doubt they must find him not guilty.


At 4:47 pm the jury adjourned to the jury room to deliberate. They had not reached a verdict by 8 pm. Judge Cudney sent everyone home and told them to return at 9pm Tuesday morning to continue deliberations.