Blood evidence presented in murder case

Thursday, August 31, 2006

A Missouri State Highway Patrol crime scene investigator testified at length on Tuesday about blood evidence found in the Shell Knob home of William Nance who was murdered on July 4, 2005. The testimony was offered on the third day of Dennis Bisher's murder trial, which is being held in Barry County Circuit Court.

Bisher is charged with first degree murder in the death of Nance, whose body was discovered in southeast Missouri by fishermen on July 5, 2005. The prosecution alleges that Bisher struck Nance in the head with a hammer and then shot him once in the head while he was lying in his bed. Bisher then allegedly attempted to hide the crime by disposing of the victim's body in Scott County.

Bisher's alleged attempt to flee the scene of the crime with Nance's body did not go smoothly. According to prosecutors, Bisher first left the murder scene with Nance's body in the trunk of a 2000 Lincoln Town Car. Just north of Jenkins on Highway 39, Bisher crashed the car into a tree and then attempted to burn the vehicle.

From there, Bisher allegedly returned to the Nance house and took a Ford Ranger pickup owned by his girlfriend, Etta Jane Harper, and drove it back to the crash scene where he retrieved Nance's body from the Town Car and drove it to southeast Missouri. Bisher was arrested later that evening (July 5, 2005) in Hollister.

Nance's murder was first reported to the Barry County Sheriff's Department on the morning of July 5 by Nance's wife, Naomi, and Harper. The women told Sheriff Mick Epperly that Bisher had killed Nance. At the time of the murder, Harper and Bisher were occupying a bedroom in the Nance home.

On Tuesday, Sgt. Roger Renken, with the Highway Patrol, spent several hours on the witness stand going over details of the crime scenes that he processed following the murder.

According to Renken, the two murder weapons were retrieved from the burned out crash site on Highway 39. Jurors were shown a gun and holster found at the scene along with a portion of a burned sledge hammer, which was found in the back passenger's seat of the Town Car.

Renken also told jurors about arriving at the Nance residence and finding its interior covered with soot. He also said he smelled "burning and an accelerant."

Renken testified that large amounts of blood were found in the master bedroom of the home where Nance and his wife, Naomi, slept. Blood splatters were found on the dresser next to the side of the bed where William Nance slept, on an ornamental wall hanging above the headboard and on curtains near the bed.

"There was blood, a lot of blood," said Renken.

The investigator also told of finding a "pooling of blood" under William Nance's side of the bed near the headboard and blood on the side of the box springs.

None of the blood found in the master bedroom was classified as a "high velocity stain," which according to Renken, would have been caused by a gun shot wound. Instead the blood patterns were consistent with "low or medium velocity stains," which are typically caused by blunt force trauma.

Renken also testified that portions of the carpet were cut and removed in the living room and master bedroom. These carpet pieces were piled up in the master bedroom along with pieces of clothing and cleaning supplies.

According to previous testimony, Naomi Nance and Harper told Sheriff Epperly that Bisher directed them to clean up the blood in the house after he allegedly killed William Nance. The two women decided to burn down the house to hide the evidence rather than clean it up.

Harper and Naomi Nance have been charged with second degree arson.

During Tuesday's testimony, Renken was asked to display the contents of 20 evidence bags to the jury. These bags contained pieces of carpet, clothing and items found in the Nance home as well as items retrieved from the Lincoln Town Car and Ford Ranger pickup that Bisher was driving when he was arrested.

On cross examination, Bisher's attorney, Clate Baker, questioned Renken about his evidence-gathering process. He questioned why Renken sent off some evidence to be processed by the state crime lab and failed to process other items.

Baker also asked Renken about two sets of pajamas that were retrieved from the kitchen trash can in the Nance residence. Both pajama tops, one pink and the other imprinted with a Cafe 55 logo, had blood on them.

The Cafe 55 T-shirt, according to Baker and confirmed by Renken, had over 100 tiny drops of blood on it, which were consistent with a high velocity blood stain.

"In the whole house, the only place where you found high velocity blood splatter was on the Cafe 55 T-shirt. Is that right?" Baker asked.

"That's correct," answered Renken.

"Based on your analysis of the house, you can't tell me who shot Bill Nance," asked Baker.

"No," answered Renken.

The prosecution, which is being handled by Barry County Prosecutor Johnnie Cox and Assistant Prosecutor Pat Sullivan, is expected to continue presentation of its case through today (Wednesday).

The trial, which is being heard by Judge J. Edward Sweeney, is scheduled to conclude on Friday. A 12-member jury will decide Bisher's fate.

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