Witnesses take stand for prosecution in trial

Posted: Tuesday, April 03, 2001

Two prosecution witnesses in the murder trial of Zebulon Nudson testified Monday about events which led to the shooting death of Justin Meireis, 19, of Nikiski, on March 12, 2000.

Gary Waddington and Harry Trenton testified that Robbie and Justin Meireis discussed getting revenge on Nudson at Rick Sanchez's house before the incident, but the defense was able to point out damaging inconsistencies in the two testimonies.

The prosecution also brought in Margie Escobar, of the Alaska State Troopers Criminal Investigation Unit, who photographed and videotaped the crime scenes along with other investigators.

In her testimony, Escobar noted investigators found no bullet holes in Nudson's residence, only in the car that was shot at from the residence.

Nudson is facing charges that include first-degree murder for the shooting incident that caused the death of Justin Meireis and wounded Robbie Meireis, Waddington and Sanchez.

According to Trenton, who also was present at the shooting but not injured, that day began with him being shaken awake by Sanchez, who asked if he wanted to tag along to pick up Justin Meireis' paycheck from the cannery where he worked.

"We were supposed to go to the cannery and then get some beer," Trenton said, adding he didn't know they were going to Nudson's home.

Trenton testified he had not been present during a discussion of getting revenge on Nudson for a beating Sanchez received at a wake at Nudson's residence honoring Preston Lee.

Trenton's recollection of the incident differed from the testimony given by 16-year-old Waddington. When asked by John Wolfe of the District Attorney's Office about the discussion of revenge between the Meireis brothers, Sanchez and himself, Waddington's description of events conflicted with Trenton's earlier testimony.

"Who's idea was the revenge?" Wolfe asked.

"Robbie's," Waddington said.

"Where was Harry during this discussion about revenge?" Wolfe asked.

"On the couch," Waddington answered. Waddington said he did not remember Trenton being asleep as Trenton had testified. "I just remember him being awake."

According to Waddington, the conversation about revenge lasted around 30 to 45 minutes.

That wasn't the only inconsistent testimony between the two witnesses. Trenton said he didn't know there was a 9 mm pistol being carried by Robbie Meireis or he "never would have hung around him."

Waddington, however, stated, upon being showed the 9 mm, that Robbie Meireis went and got the pistol from his house and when he returned to Sanchez's house he tucked it into the front of his pants in plain view of everyone.

"Was Robbie pumped?" defense attorney James McComas asked about Meireis' attitude before they went to Nudson's house.

"Yeah, so was Justin," Waddington answered. McComas asked if all five people in the car knew about the pistol.

"Yeah," answered Waddington. McComas referred Waddington back to his earlier statements to troopers while he was still in the hospital, asking if Waddington was scared to indulge information because he was afraid of Robbie Meireis.

"Were you protecting Robbie?" McComas asked of Waddington's refusal to talk about the pistol until his third interview by troopers.

"Yeah, I guess so," Waddington said.

He said his reluctance to discuss the pistol did not stem from a direction from Robbie Meireis, but rather a decision he made on his own.

"During your interview didn't you say 'Don't tell Robbie this s---. Don't tell Robbie'?" McComas asked, trying to paint a picture of Waddington's fear.

"I might have," Waddington answered.

Both Trenton and Waddington testified that once they were at Nudson's residence, the Meireis brothers went to the house with Robbie shouting profanity as he hurried to the front porch.

"Robbie said 'Get out here, I'm going to kick your a--' and s--- like that," Waddington said.

According to Waddington and Trenton, it was shortly after the profanity that Robbie Meireis began "banging" on the storm door of Nudson's house, though neither was paying attention when the plexiglass in the storm door broke.

"I went down to light my cigarette and that is when the glass broke," Trenton said. "Then I heard a loud boom like a shotgun."

Waddington said he heard the banging caused by Meireis as he pounded on the door but "looked away and the glass broke. When I looked back I saw a gun from the door."

When asked if he heard a boom, Waddington responded he had. Like Trenton, he said he then heard multiple shots that seemed to come from a "rifle of sorts."

Both Trenton and Waddington said when the shots were fired, they took cover immediately. Wadding-ton put the car in gear once everyone was in the vehicle and drove away with the shots eventually dying down as they left.

Waddington also testified that as he put the car in "drive" he felt his arm nudge forward but thought nothing of it until they were down the road and he felt blood.

When asked to do so by Wolfe, Waddington lifted the sleeve of his shirt and showed the jury the scar on the back of his left arm where the rifle bullet entered and the scar on the front where it exited.

After the testimony of Trenton and Waddington, the prosecution brought Escobar to the stand and prompted her to explain crime-scene pictures to the jury. She also narrated three 20-minute videos taken at the crime scene and of the car that was shot at.

"Did you examine the exterior and the interior of (Nudson's) house for bullet holes?" Wolfe asked between videos.

"I did an examination of the exterior and the interior for bullet holes, and I did not find anything," Escobar said. Much of the car video was narrated with Escobar pointing out the bullet holes in the car, many of which were in the vehicle's trunk and bumper and traveled through almost the length of the car.

There also were bullet holes that traveled through the headrest of both the passenger and the drivers' seats and multiple holes that had punctured the back seat.

Escobar's testimony did not include the exact number of bullets that were fired.

The prosecution and the defense stipulated that it was not possible to determine the trajectory of the bullets that struck the car or people or where the bullets traveled after striking the vehicle because the ammunition used in the shooting is easily deflected when it comes in contact with glass, metal and other solid objects.

Before Waddington left the stand, McComas asked him if the state of Alaska had charged him with burglary or being an accomplice to burglary. "Not that I know of," Waddington answered. "Do you think you will be charged?" McComas asked. "Haven't thought about it," Waddington said. McComas just nodded his head and took his seat with no further questions before the prosecution called the next witness.

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

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