Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Fred Cooper says he was not in Gateway

Jury hears his 2006 denials of murders


Jurors heard continued denials by Fred Cooper that he killed Steven and Michelle Andrews in their Gateway home December 2005.

That was the highlight of Wednesday's testimony in Day 6 of Cooper's trial in Fort Myers.

The case's lead detective was on the stand most of the afternoon and prosecutors played three taped statements Cooper made the month of the killings.

"I have nothin' to worry about -I know I wasn't there," Cooper said defiantly. "I don't know what you're talkin' about 'cause I wasn't there and I did not do this."

The Andrewses were slain in their home Dec. 27, 2005. On Jan. 11, 2006, Cooper was arrested and charged with two counts of first-degree murder and one count of armed burglary. He faces the death penalty, if convicted of the crimes.

Sheriff's Detective Sgt. Walter Ryan, the lead investigator, testified that Cooper was quickly established as a suspect based on his girlfriend Kellie Ballew's admission that she was having an affair with Steven Andrews. They asked him to provide statements, fingerprint sets and DNA samples, which he did, Ryan said.

Ryan testified detectives sent off three guns for testing, but none matched the bullet found in the Andrews' master bedroom.

On cross-examination by Deputy Public Defender Ken Garber, Ryan admitted that fingerprints were lifted from a sliding glass door and none matched Cooper's. A fingerprint was found at the top of the door, but matched no one, Ryan said.

He said there is no forensic evidence that connects Cooper to the house, but then on re-direct examination, Ryan said there is evidence that connects Cooper to Michelle Andrews' body. He didn't say what the evidence is.

Cooper's former boss, Jim Peters of Sun Sports Cycle & Watercraft, testified that two days after the homicides, detectives visited Cooper, who was a motorcycle mechanic. After a brief chat, detectives left and Cooper ran an errand for about 25 minutes. When he returned, Peters testified, Cooper worked on his camouflage jacket.

"When he came back to the shop, he had his camouflage jacket with him and spent about the next hour cleaning and scrubbing on it," Peters said. He testified Cooper used spray solvents, which are typically used to clean dirt and debris from motorcycle parts to clean the jacket. Cooper also cut the lining out of the jacket.

Later, Peters asked whether Cooper killed the couple.

"I asked him if he did it," Peters testified. "He said, 'No, I had nothing to do with it.'"

Ryan explained that detectives went to the shop and asked Cooper for his camouflage jacket - because they believed he was wearing it and walked through the Gateway neighborhood the night of Dec. 26 and the morning of Dec. 27.

Cooper gave them consent to search his house and they left. When they came back to Sun Sports, Cooper had the jacket.

"I told him that I just left his home. It wasn't in the garage as he said," Ryan testified. "He said, 'I'm sorry I sent you all the way down there, it's there in my work trunk.'"

Detectives also found the lining of the jacket at the top a garbage can in Cooper's work station.

In his statement to detectives, Cooper said the lining was torn, so he cut it off. He told detectives he didn't know Ballew was having an affair until detectives told him. Investigators believe that was the motive for murder.

"Up until tonight, I had no motive," he said. "I've never - I didn't know that she was seeing Steven until just now. I had no idea that was the case."

Cooper talked with detectives Dec. 27 and then after retrieving the jacket, they talked with him again after work Dec. 29.

That's when detectives laid out evidence against him.

They said they had DNA evidence against him, video surveillance of a motorcycle riding down Gateway Boulevard on Dec. 27 and neighbors of the Andrewses saying they saw a man wearing a camouflage jacket the night before and the morning the bodies were found.

"I know ... my whereabouts ... last night and it wasn't in Gateway," he said. "It was only an hour. From Bonita to Gateway, drove back to Bonita? My bike's fast, but not that damn fast."

Two Florida Department of Law Enforcement experts testified about gunshot residue and what type of bullet could have been shot and killed Steven Andrews.

Rosemary Jassoy testified she couldn't determine from what type of gun the bullet was fired. Deborah Lightfoot, a gunshot residue expert, testified that gunshot residue found on Steven Andrews' hand indicates he could have been shot from between three inches to three feet away.

The trial will continue Friday because today is Yom Kippur and the courthouse is closed for the day.


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