Ward Trial: Lost bullet found, no match for gun print

By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – A “lost” bullet was “found” and an expert failed to match a mark on a firearm to the only three people fingerprinted in the shooting death of Anna Catherine McCoy.
Thursday was the first full day of state testimony in the depraved-heart murder trial of Thomas James Ward, 25, of Saltillo. The trial began Tuesday in the Lee County Justice Center.
Ward and his attorney, Victor Fleitas of Tupelo, insist he is innocent and that the 20-year-old Itawamba Community College soccer player’s death was a tragic accident on the night of Aug. 15, 2010.
Testimony resumes at 9 a.m. today.
Fleitas pressed prosecution witness Mark Haygood shortly after the noon recess when it became apparent the former Saltillo Police investigator could not account for a 14th 40-caliber shell, which the first officer to the shooting scene described as a live round on the floor of the bedroom in which McCoy was found bloody and without a pulse.
“I thought it was in evidence,” Haygood said. “I thought everything was packaged and transported to the Crime Lab.”
He also admitted that only two days ago, he learned that the initial officer – now Assistant Chief Prentiss Brown – moved the firearm on the floor to a dresser and then apparently re-placed the gun to take photographs later.
“I can see him making the weapon safe, to ensure no accidental discharge,” Haygood offered.
A few hours later, eight-month SPD investigator Mark Robertson appeared in the courtroom to tell the 12-member jury and three alternates that he and Brown just found the shell under lock in the SPD evidence room. The shell apparently never made it to the state crime lab for any kind of testing.
Fleitas objected to the “found” shell’s admission into evidence, but Judge James L. Roberts Jr. overruled him.
Later in the day, latent fingerprint expert Jamie Robinson testified that when she examined the firearm sent to the crime lab from the Ward case, she found that the sole print did not belong to Ward, his father or McCoy.
She said she didn’t compare the print with any from Saltillo Police personnel, but said she doubted they were in the national fingerprint data base.
Another state witness, forensic toxicologist Dr. Christopher Long from St. Louis University Medical Center, said no alcohol or drugs were found in McCoy’s blood.
Today, jurors should expect to hear two recordings from Lee County E-911 connected to emergency calls after McCoy was shot.
Prosecutors are District Attorney Trent Kelly with assistants Richard Bowen and Josh Wise.
patsy.brumfield@journalinc.com