Expert witnesses dominate testimony on Day 1 of murder trial

By Bonnie Culverhouse

The trial of a Taylor, Ark. man who is charged with murdering a north Webster Parish man kicked off Wednesday with opening statements and the state’s attempts to establish a timeline leading to discovery and process of evidence.

Logan Harmon Smith is charged with second degree murder of 37-year-old Anthony John Bruns of Springhill. The charge carries a sentence of life in prison with no chance of probation, parole or suspension of sentence.

Witnesses included the man who found Bruns’ body on the side of Percy Burns Road near Cullen around 6:45 p.m. June 19, 2020 and the first Webster Parish deputy on the scene who secured it.

In response to questioning, Dep. Ladarius Joseph said, “I approached the individual (on the ground) to be sure he was dead, but I did not touch anything.”

Maj. Phillip Krouse and Lt. Det. Tommy Kemp Jr., with the Webster Parish Sheriff’s Office were the first detectives to arrive at the Percy Burns Road location. 

When prosecutor Jimbo Yocom asked Krouse what he noticed when he approached Bruns, Krouse said, “I noticed he was missing a shoe, he had dirt on his back and down his leg and there was blood flow from his neck down his back.”

Krouse said one thing that drove him harder (to solve the crime) was the missing shoe.

“If I could find the shoe, I could find who was possibly involved in the crime,” he said. 

Krouse also concluded Bruns was not shot at that location.

“Blood doesn’t flow uphill,” he said. “He was killed somewhere else and shot in an upright position.”

Crime scene photos show the gunshot wound was around 2 inches behind Bruns’ left ear. There was no exit wound.

Bruns had no identification on his body, but investigators located his family and identified him by a tattoo of “BRUNS” on his leg. After contacting family and confirming Bruns’ identity, Krouse said he was contacted by then-sheriff Gary Sexton who recommended they talk to Chad Dawson, Logan Smith’s stepbrother.

“Mr. Dawson had a gun that he was concerned about and wanted detectives to look at,” Krouse said. “We (Krouse and Kemp) made contact with him at a church, just across Arkansas lines.”

Dawson reportedly told investigators that Friday (June 19) afternoon, Smith hid a pistol on his property.

“Dawson said he took the pistol because he was afraid of the way Logan had been acting over the last few days,” Krouse said. “He took it home and put it in his safe.” Investigators then took possession of the gun.

Krouse also testified that Dawson’s parents had a large number of wrecked vehicles on their property and when interviewed, Allen Dawson told investigators that Smith approached him with some vehicle floor mats and other things, wanting to burn them in a barrel on his property.

“Dawson told him no because of the plastic on the mats and how it would smoke and smell,” Krouse said. “He told Smith to take the things and just throw them in one of the old wrecked cars on the property.”

Around midnight June 20, Krouse and Kemp located the items in the back of a wrecked pick-up truck. In addition to the floor mats, red towels, bloody carpet pieces, a cell phone and the missing shoe were found.

From a visitor at Dawson’s residence, they learned the vehicle from which the items originally came was a pick-up truck that was at an address in Shreveport. Other investigators went to the address, found the truck and had a towing company transport it to Bayou Dorcheat Correctional Center where it was processed.

A residential camera near the crime scene showed an identical truck on Percy Burns Road around 3:53 p.m. June 19.

Krouse and Kemp interviewed Smith twice – the second time at 3 a.m. June 21 at the Webster Parish Sheriff’s Office. In a video recording of the interview, Smith told investigators, “I did it. I shot that (expletive deleted).”

Off and on, around the time of the crime, Smith said he was with Abbot Echols, whose grandfather owned the stolen firearm and the truck, however, DNA collected from the truck and the evidence belonged to Smith. None of it appeared to belong to Echols.

Other witnesses called to testify Wednesday by prosecution included Lt. Kemp, assistant coroner Jeff Franklin, DNA expert Katie Traweek, who processed evidence at North Louisiana Crime Lab and WPSO Capt. Scott Tucker.

Defense attorneys Mary Ellen Halterman and David Shepherd cross examined several witnesses in an effort to show Echols could have possibly shot Bruns.

Court will reconvene at 9 a.m. Thursday. Yocom and prosecutor Melanie McCullough have several more witnesses to call, including Little Rock, Ark., Dr. Frank Peretti who performed Bruns’ autopsy.

Judge Charles Smith, 26th Judicial District Court, is presiding over the trial.

Bruns family – his mother, two sisters and his 14-year-old daughter – were in the courtroom Wednesday.

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