Experts portray grisly scene

Investigators reconstruct position in Watson murder

Posted: Sunday, May 29, 2005

Jurors in the Kenai murder trial of David Forster on Friday were told Kenai Police Officer John Watson likely was on the ground on his hands and knees when he was shot and killed on Christmas 2003.

Forster, 35, is accused of murdering Watson in the driveway of Forster's residence on Watergate Way in the Kenai VIP Subdivision where Watson had been sent to check on the welfare of an 18-year-old female, later identified as Forster's fiancee Crystal Hallman.

The defense claims Forster was in a disturbed mental state and believed he was in a fight with Satan the day of the shooting.

Bill Gifford, a former Alaska Bureau of Investigations investigator, and ABI Sgt. Dane Gilmore on Friday reenacted the shooting in the middle of Judge Donald Hopwood's courtroom with Gilmore on all fours on the floor portraying Watson while Gifford held Watson's .45-caliber Glock semiautomatic pistol to Gilmore's back.

During his testimony, Gifford told the jury the Glock pistol left its pattern in gray gunpowder residue on the lining of Watson's uniform jacket where the bullet went through and then embedded itself in the officer's bulletproof vest.

Watson was shot once in the back and then once in the back of the head, the bullet lodging inside his skull above the left eye socket.

The state medical examiner told the jury earlier in the week the first shot might have caused at least temporary paralysis.

Gunshot residue from both bullets indicated the gun was either in contact with or within fractions of an inch of Watson, witnesses said.

Watson's jacket had a hole in the back near the bottom waistband and the first bullet was found near the top of the Kevlar ballistic panel in Watson's vest, indicating his jacket had been pulled up before he was shot.

While Kenai District Attorney June Stein held the jacket in front of the jury Friday, Gifford demonstrated how the gun must have been positioned upside down to make the impression it did in the residue.

That, he said, indicated the defendant was standing at Watson's head while the officer was on the ground.

During cross examination of the witness, Anchorage defense attorney John Murtagh asked, "Would you agree the reenactment is a tiny piece of the event?"

"Yes," said Gifford.

"All you can tell us is the relativeness of where the people were?" Murtagh asked.

"Correct," said Gifford.

Jurors on Friday also heard from Alaska Scientific Crime Detection Lab forensic firearms and toolmark examiner Robert Shem, who identified the bullets recovered from Watson's head and vest and the shell casings recovered from the driveway of Forster's residence.

A former criminalist with the state crime lab, Kerrie Cathcart, gave jurors their first look at the layout of the inside of Forster's home where he remained holed up for about four hours following the shooting.

Cathcart described a number of evidence items found outside the home and items, including Watson's pistol, found inside.

A towel that appeared to be stained with blood was seized by Cathcart from inside the master bathroom of Forster's home where earlier law enforcement witnesses said the alleged killer spent between 80 and 90 percent of the four hours, apparently staring at himself in the mirror, talking to himself and, at times, praying.

Before court was adjourned for the long holiday weekend, Stein played a video showing Forster in an interrogation room of trooper E Detachment headquarters in Soldotna where Gilmore interviewed him and collected DNA samples.

During the half-hour video, Forster was shown mostly sitting silently with his head down in the office room. He was not wearing a shirt and at one point was given a blanket to wrap around himself.

Gilmore said Forster had complained of being cold.

After Forster was taken to Central Peninsula General Hospital for a blood sample, Gilmore said he conducted a few more interviews and then went to the crime scene to recover Watson's body.

With a slight smile on his face, Judge Hopwood excused the jurors who had been listening to witness testimony since Monday and encouraged them to structure their holiday weekend activities to assure their safe return to court Tuesday when the trial is slated to resume at 8:30 a.m.

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