Day 7: Defense calls first witnesses in George Burch's murder trial

Published: Feb. 27, 2018 at 8:22 PM CST
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Seven days in and George Burch’s defense attorneys are getting the chance to argue his case in court.

Prosecutors argue DNA evidence and GPS data puts Burch in the same area Nicole VanderHeyden was last seen and where her body was found after being brutally beaten and strangled in May 2016.

Burch is trying to argue the victim’s boyfriend, Douglass Detrie, is responsible for her death, but prosecutors say Fitbit data shows he was inactive at the time of VanderHeyden’s murder.

Detrie was initially arrested in the case, but was released due to lack of evidence.

After a failed attempt by Burch’s defense team to dismiss the entire trial Tuesday afternoon, Burch’s attorneys call their first witness to the stand, Jason Lemens who is a friend of VanderHeyden

After leaving the concert at the Watering Hole on May 20, 2016, Lemens said he chatted with VanderHeyden at the Sardine Can. While talking to her, he said something stood out to him.

“She had mentioned she would get in trouble by talking with me, and it wasn't me specifically, it was just like if she was talking to another guy,” said Lemens. “I just played it off as typical jealousy, most boyfriends and girlfriends have that type of thing.”

Moving onto the search warrant at VanderHeyden and Detrie’s home in Ledgeview, the defense asked one investigator about VanderHeyden’s vehicle in the garage and the two driver seat settings he tested. A driver seat setting allows the driver to move the seat and steering wheel to their liking with a programmed button.

The defense asked Brown County Investigator Nicholas Olmsted what he thought when the seat moved and he said, “That the second setting I pushed making it move forward was for someone typically smaller in stature or shorter.”

Meanwhile Detective Roman Aronstein testified about wires he found on top of a refrigerator in the garage.

“It was made known to investigators assisting in the investigation that part of the cause of death involved strangulation,” said Aronstein.

The defense will continue calling witnesses to the stand Wednesday at 9 a.m. after sorting through some more legal issues.

The defense has discussed the possibility of Burch taking the stand. That's to be determined.

Action 2 News reporters Andrea Hay and Brittany Schmidt are on Twitter providing real time updates from the courtroom. Follow @AndreaHayNews and @BritSchmidtNews