Witness recounts events

Prosecution opens case in Nudson trial

Posted: Wednesday, March 28, 2001

The jury had its first opportunity on Tuesday to hear a witness recount what happened at Zeb Nudson's Nikiski home the afternoon of March 12, 2000.

Nudson is facing charges that include first-degree murder for a shooting incident that caused the death of Justin Meireis and wounded Robbie Meireis, Gary Waddington and Rich Sanchez. Also present, but uninjured, was Harry Trenton.

The two Meireis brothers, Waddington, Sanchez and Trenton had allegedly gone to Nudson's home seeking revenge after an incident at that location the previous evening -- March 11 -- during which Sanchez and Justin Meireis were beaten up. On March 12, after arriving at Nudson's residence, the five individuals backed their vehicle halfway up the driveway before Robbie and Justin Meireis went to Nudson's door, according to testimony.

Testifying as a witness for the prosecution, Sanchez said he and Trenton stood outside the car to have a cigarette, while the Meireis brothers "tapped" on the glass of Nudson's door. Then Sanchez heard the glass break and saw Robbie and Justin Meireis running with their heads down, through the snow toward the car.

"He's got a gun. Let's get out of here," Sanchez said he heard Robbie Meireis say.

Sanchez testified that he heard a shot go off and got himself and Trenton into the car.

In what he swore was "no more than 10 seconds," Sanchez said he felt his back grazed by either a bullet or glass, saw a bullet hit Waddington in the arm, heard Robbie Meireis yell that he had been shot and then saw Justin Meireis get hit in the back by another bullet.

"He said, 'I'm hit,'" Sanchez said. "I think he said it twice, 'I'm hit. I'm hit.'"

Sanchez said he remembered Justin Meireis telling everyone in the car to "stay down." However, Justin Meireis "picked up his head, and that's when he got hit in the back of the head," Sanchez said of the fatal wound.

But there were other details Sanchez had a hard time keeping consistent with information he and others involved in the case had already given to Alaska State Troopers and the grand jury.

Under cross-examination, defense attorney James McComas asked Sanchez about injuries he had suffered during the fight the previous evening. Among others, Sanchez indicated one on his chest. However, McComas read from an interview during which Sanchez told troopers that the particular injury was from several days prior to the incident.

Although McComas said Waddington had reported the five individuals made plans prior to their arrival at Nudson's home for Waddington to drive the vehicle when they left, Sanchez said he did not remember that discussion.

McComas asked Sanchez for details about a tire iron and Sanchez said Trenton picked one up while Sanchez and Trenton were having their cigarette, but Sanchez said he had told Trenton to put it down.

McComas then asked Sanchez if he would dispute Harry Trenton's claim that the Meireis brothers had taken it with them to Nudson's front door.

"I would stand by what I said," Sanchez said.

McComas read Sanchez' responses to questions from the troopers about Robbie Meireis' 9-mm handgun that Meireis had dropped out of the car as they sped away from Nudson's home on March 12. Sanchez said he, himself, later retrieved the gun and took it to his home. However, when asked for it repeatedly by troopers, Sanchez denied having it until he was finally told that Robbie Meireis said it was at Sanchez' home.

"Were you lying for Robbie?" McComas said.

"I don't think so," Sanchez said.

"Why were you lying to the police?" McComas said.

"Maybe I was thinking I could keep the pistol," Sanchez said. "It's a $900 pistol."

At one point in court on Tuesday, McComas asked Sanchez about details he had left out of statements to the troopers.

"I told them everything I could remember to the best of my knowledge," Sanchez said.

"The only parts you left out are the parts about the Meireis boys acting aggressively," McComas said.

"I didn't leave it out intentionally," Sanchez answered.

The trial continues today at 8:30 a.m. in Kenai.

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