Following opening statements on the first day of trial, April 29, 2013, the prosecution called ten witnesses to take the stand.
The first witness called was Karen Westall, the widow of the victim, Robert V. Westall. She answered questions about her relationship with her late husband, and was on the stand for less than five minutes. She stated that she had been married to Robert since 1980, but they had separated in 1998. The defense did not cross-examine Westall.
The next witness, Deborah Barekman, was on the stand for 25 minutes. She was the girlfriend of Robert Westall and the person who discovered his body. Barekman told state prosecutor, Michael Vujovich, they had been together for eight years. She testified she had last seen Westall a little before midnight on March 23, 2012. He told her he was going to his sister’s cottage to spend the night. According to Barekman, she called the cottage on Saturday afternoon after not hearing from Westall. When he failed to show up at his apartment for Sunday dinner, she decided to go to the cottage. She described going inside and finding Westall.
Defense attorney, Matthew Vaughn, asked Barekman to identify one photo.
The third witness to take the stand was Diana Burgin, a neighbor of Deborah Barekman. She drove her to the cottage and also saw the victim’s body. Burgin was the one who called 911.
James Lyle, a Lawrenceville police officer, was the next to testify. He was the first officer to arrive on the scene and secured it. He posted himself there to make sure no one went in or out. Lyle also mentioned that a search warrant was obtained about 5 p.m. On cross-examination, Vaughn asked Lyle if he’d been given a billfold by Lawrenceville police chief Mike Mefford. Lyle testified that he did not inventory and put it in his evidence locker.
Elise Nave, the fifth witness called, is a paramedic with the Lawrence County Ambulance Service. She was the senior person on the ambulance crew called to the cottage. She said there was a lot of blood everywhere and that she touched the side of Westall’s neck to check for a pulse. There was none. Nave said that another member of the ambulance crew, Laura Martin, noticed a large gash on the other side of Westall’s neck. All the EMTs had been wearing gloves, but it was at that time she decided they needed to leave the cottage.
The sixth witness was Lawrence County Coroner Shannon Steffey. She testified that on Sunday, March 25, 2012, she was notified by a Lawrence County Sheriff’s dispatcher about 12:15 p.m. Steffey said it was obvious that he was deceased, and there appeared to have been a struggle. She went on to describe her actions at the scene and said she wanted an autopsy done, because it appeared to have been a homicide. Steffey was then asked to identify some photos. The defense didn’t cross-examine her.
Michael “Doodle” Seitzinger was the second police officer to be called to the stand. He said that he stayed at the cottage until the crime scene investigation was complete. Doodle was only on the stand for twelve minutes. Vaughn’s only question during cross-examination was to ask him to spell ‘Doodle’.
The next witness, Steve Hulen, a crime scene investigator with the Illinois State Police, was on the stand for more than an hour. The prosecution asked several questions as to what Hule saw, did, and collected at the scene. He stated that he found other rooms in the cottage, except for the bedroom with the victim’s body, to be neat and orderly. He found a wallet in a pair of pants in the bedroom that had $485. He also said he believed he collected 28 or 29 items of potential evidence. Hulen said he determined no one forced the door to the cottage open, but that telephone lines had been pulled from an outside pedestal. He was at the crime scene from 5 p.m. until 1:30 a.m.
The defense asked Hulen to identify several photos. Vaughn also asked about his observations of window screen that had been taken as evidence as well as how Westall’s body had been facing.
Gregory Martz, the ninth witness, is another Illinois State Police crime scene investigator. Martz assisted Hulen in collecting evidence and was the officer who did a field sketch of the apartment, including the floor diagram. Martz told the prosecution he also attended the autopsy, which took about seven hours. He said he collected evidence off of Westall’s body during this time as well as taking photos. He said he had been at the crime scene for about six hours.
Vaughn, in his cross-examination, asked about the screen in the north window close to the door. He asked if Martz processed the outside of the screen for prints. Martz said that he had, but found no useable prints.
During the testimony of Matt Lawson, a Lawrence County Sheriff’s Department correctional officer, the day’s proceedings were stopped. Vujovich asked Lawson if he’d had a conversation with McQueen on May 17, 2012, but the defense objected on the basis of hearsay. Judge Hopkins sent the jury to the jury room, then heard statements from both attorneys. He decided to research the objection overnight. The jury was sent home around 4:20 p.m.
The next day, the prosecution continued to call witnesses.
Source: Lawrenceville Daily Record